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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Police urge replica gun ban
Former minister Charles Clarke
Charles Clarke vowed to ban replica guns last year
Police are calling for a new offence to be created to outlaw the carrying of replica guns in public.

Officers are concerned about the growing popularity of fake weapons, which can look identical to real guns.

A BBC Radio Five Live investigation, carried out in Blackpool during Labour's conference, found that more than 100 shops in the town were selling the replicas.

Nationwide about 80% of armed incidents the police are called to involved fake weapons.


Macho posing around imitation guns has become a real cause for public concern

Peter Squires
Gun Control Network
Last year the government pledged to introduce a ban after 29-year-old Derek Bennett was shot dead by police in Brixton as he held a gun-shaped cigarette lighter.

On Wednesday, a Home Office spokesman said: "The introduction of a new offence for replica firearms is under consideration, but there are complexities, especially the definition of a replica."

The difficulty lies in distinguishing between a toy gun and a fake gun, she said.

Painted guns

He said current laws penalised offenders for misusing replica weapons and gave police considerable powers to deal with anyone using them in suspicious circumstances.

Jan Berry, the chairman of the Police Federation - which represents rank and file officers - said the sale of such weapons should be stopped.

Gun Control Network exhibits
Could you tell they weren't real?
She wants to see possession made an offence or the fake guns to be painted bright colours.

David McCrone, deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester police and ACPO spokesman on firearms, said: "It is not an offence to carry a replica firearm in a public place. The ACPO position is that it should be.

"Creating such an offence, allied to a marketing campaign highlighting the dangers of misuse of such guns, would send a clear message to people who own such guns, those who sell them and those who may have thought of buying one."

Senior officers have told the BBC that defining a replica should be no more difficult than a knife and would require police discretion.

Two years ago a report by the Labour-dominated home affairs committee urged ministers to ban the sale of imitation firearms to anyone under 18.

BBC Five Live reported Nick Garnett bought a Sig Sauer P228 imitation gun for 29 from a shop close to the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool, with no questions asked.

Derek Bennett
Mr Bennett was shot dead
He found more than 100 shops in the seaside resort selling them, usually holiday or joke shops, where retailers claim they are the most item on sale.

Nick Garnett said: "We bought one and it felt very strange walking round Blackpool with one in a carrier bag.

"It would've been so easy for somebody to mistake it for a real weapon and then all hell would have been let loose."

See also:

27 Aug 02 | England
07 Mar 01 | Politics
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