Airguns not toys, warn police

[comment caption=Do you think airguns should be banned?]Police have warned parents not to be fooled into thinking airguns they give their children are toys.

The warning came several weeks after an undercover police officer was shot dead in Auckland with a high-powered air rifle and as the government moved to tighten the law on airguns.

Police national manager of firearms licensing and vetting, Inspector Joe Green, said up to 100,000 airguns were in the country which were replicas of real firearms, including rifles and pistols.

He said it was often very difficult to tell the difference between real weapons and replicas.

At least one person had been shot dead in New Zealand by police after he brandished a replica Glock pistol at police and police feared it could happen again unless people knew the risk.

"We have produced information for parents because the major supplier of these things as far as we can work out, to children and young people who play up with them, are their parent and caregivers who don't realise they are an air gun."

However, he said parents and caregivers who unlawfully supplied airguns to young people were seldom charged.

The Mountain Safety Council, which had an advisory committee on firearms safety, had recommended the government treat firearm replicas as if they were real weapons such as pistols, restricted weapons or as military style semi-automatics.

He said after shotguns and rifles, replica firearms were the third most common item seized by police.

The Arms Amendment Bill tightening control of airguns was before Parliament but Mr Green said it was not certain when it would become law.

In the latest issue of the Police Association magazine, Police News, editor Steve Plowman said in a tragic incident in America last year, a 12-year-old boy who refused to stop for police was shot dead by police who believed he was carrying a gun.

He said in firearms incidents police could not afford to be tentative as a split-second hesitation could cost them their life or the life of a colleague.

He said one armed offenders squad member had told him any fake weapon which had a striking resemblance to a real weapon should be banned.

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