Page last updated at 05:39 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 06:39 UK

South Wales Police warn over airgun dangers

Air guns
Having an airgun or imitation gun in a public place can be an offence

A police force is launching a campaign to remind air and ball-bearing (BB) gun owners the weapons can injure and kill.

South Wales Police said offences with BB guns tripled from eight to 28 in the year to April, while air gun offences fell to 24 from 40 in the same time.

The poster and leaflet campaign aims to remind gun buyers and owners of the risks the weapons pose.

John Atkinson, whose 13-year-old son was killed in an airgun accident, said: "These are lethal weapons."

South Wales Police is to ask retailers to give the advice leaflets to customers buying an air weapon or imitation gun.

Det Supt Mark Lynch said the majority of those caught with a BB gun or air weapon did not intend to cause harm but people had to know the weapons were "not toys".

George Atkinson
George Atkinson was shot with an airgun while playing with another boy

He said: "People must realise it is an offence to have air and imitation guns in a public place, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse and you can be arrested.

"Youths or adults carrying them in public can cause real alarm to residents who think they are real guns. This can trigger 999 calls and even a response by armed officers."

He said people considering buying such a weapon should remember the relevant laws.

Mr Atkinson and his wife Jayne, of Pontblyddyn, near Mold, Flintshire, have campaigned for stricter controls on air weapons but not an outright ban.

Their son, George, died aged 13 in 1999 after he was shot with an airgun while out playing with another boy aged 11.

The inquest heard forensic tests revealed that the gun had a very light trigger and a faulty safety catch and that George's skull was very thin at the temple where he was hit.

Mr Atkinson, a former police detective sergeant, said George would still be alive if the airgun had been locked up like firearms have to be.

Rhys Johnson
Rhys Johnson was fatally shot by an airgun while taking 'pot shots' at cans

He welcomed the South Wales Police campaign but said it highlighted how the weapons were a concern and said it strengthened the case for tougher legislation.

He said: "Plenty of children have been maimed and killed, unfortunately, and animals have been shot.

"We want legislation so only certain age groups can have them and they have the same rules as shotguns and other firearms.

"These are lethal weapons and people do get killed, like George did."

The South Wales Police campaign comes after the death of 10-year-old Swansea boy Rhys Johnson last September.

His inquest heard he was accidently shot in the heart at close range as he and a 12-year-old friend played with an airgun while unsupervised.



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SEE ALSO
Air gun death 'a tragic accident'
29 Sep 09 |  South West Wales
'Mindless' gun attacks on animals
18 Jun 07 |  South East Wales
Airgun victim supports campaign
19 Apr 04 |  North East Wales
Mother launches anti-airgun video
06 Dec 04 |  North East Wales

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