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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Police issue toy gun caution
Glock pistols
From the top: A toy, replica and a real pistol
Police are warning parents about the dangers of buying toy guns for their children after a spate of call-outs to incidents involving suspected real firearms.

Northumbria Police's armed response unit was scrambled 20 times last weekend to reports of weapons being carried in public.

Assistant chief constable Paul Leighton said: "Guns, any guns, are not toys, so please think carefully before you buy them and do not let your children use them unsupervised.

"Northumbria Police will always provide an armed response to incidents where there is a report of a firearm being used.

As far as replica firearms are concerned, many are very realistic

Assistant chief constable Paul Leighton
"We feel the time is right to remind everyone, but especially youngsters ... of the risks they are running if they think any firearm is a toy."

The Northumbria force is already taking part in an independent investigation into the fatal shooting of a man holding a gun-shaped cigarette lighter.

During the incident in July, armed response officers in south London shot the man six times.

Mr Leighton added: "The irresponsible use of replica weapons or air weapons obviously places members of the public and police officers in very dangerous situations.

"As far as replica firearms are concerned, many are very realistic.

Casual use rises

"If you are a member of the public and someone is pointing a firearm at you, it may be that you take action which could result in injury of loss of life."

Police figures suggest the casual use of weapons by youngsters is on the rise.

In Northumbria, if the trend continues until the end of 2001, the number of armed response deployments compared with 2000 will have doubled.

Between 1 January and 30 June this year, the force has either seized or been handed 306 air guns and 85 replicas.

Possesion of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

See also:

05 Jul 01 | UK
Toy gun man cleared
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