Page last updated at 14:07 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 15:07 UK

Police let children handle guns

Pic: Mark Bluden
The Met said it would review the way such presentations are done in future

Firearms officers have been criticised for allowing children as young as seven to hold submachine guns during a community event.

Youngsters were given the guns by officers from the Metropolitan Police's CO19 firearms unit as part of a fun day in Limehouse, east London.

Anti-gun crime campaigners said police could be in danger of glamorising guns following Sunday's event.

The Met said it would be carrying out a review into such presentations.

At the event, youngsters posed with Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns used by C019 officers.

The German-built 9mm weapon can fire at a rate of 800 rounds per minute.

Are we in danger of glamorising guns?
Lyn Costello, Mothers Against Murder and Aggression
But critics said allowing youngsters to get so close to firearms sent a mixed message.

"Are we in danger of glamorising guns?" said Lyn Costello, from the group Mothers Against Murder and Aggression.

"Even as we've had to examine what we're trying to do, because we go to schools and we do weapons awareness training telling kids the effects of carrying a knife or a gun, we have to sit back and think have we gone too far?

"Are we in danger of making it more popular for our young people to pick up a weapon?"

But the Met said it supported the firearms officers.

"I'm not necessarily going to agree that it was the wrong thing to do," said Ch Supt Bill Tillbrook from CO19.

"But the public perception was quite clear to me and it is that that has prompted me to review the way we do such presentations in the future."

He added: "I know what my officers were attempting to achieve - engaging hearts and minds - and the intention was honourable."

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