Mothers and sons (with guns)

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As children grow from babies, to toddlers and into their teens, parents will never stop worrying about them getting into some kind of danger. Babies falling off a chair or bed, toddlers reaching the medicine cabinet, it seems that there is always a need to be vigilant. But what about when children reach their teenage years?

Some assume life would become easier. As children get older it also often means that after school clubs are no longer required, and childminders or nurseries no longer have to be paid for - teens can fend for themselves when they return from school or during school holidays. But what other dangers are there for parents to worry about whilst they are working?

One of our lawyers explains a scenario which happened recently.

“You collect your 14 year old son from the Metrolink station as he had spent the day with a group of friends. You are in the car travelling home when he says ‘Mum look what I’ve been given today’ You look over to him and find yourself staring down the barrel of a B.B. gun!!

For me that feeling would be indescribable. As a Lawyer, I would instantly know the potential trouble my son could have got into but he, as a naive teenager who’s not particularly streetwise, couldn’t appreciate the severity and would instantly think I was overreacting and over exaggerating ‘as usual’.

Your son then assures you this item remained in his bag out of sight and he wasn’t out playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians. But you are well aware that he spends countless hours in his room playing Fortnite (a game of warfare where weapons are used along with the occasional ‘floss’ dance). It crosses your mind he could have been elaborating the truth.

If it were my son, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t appreciate what could have happened had he been holding the gun in public and reported to the police. In this scenario, the remainder of our journey home would be spent enlightening him with an overview of the law as it stands."

Is it illegal to buy a BB Gun?

This can be a grey area. Whilst it is not a specific criminal offence to buy a BB gun, it is an offence to possess an imitation firearm in a public place.

Is it illegal to own a B.B. gun?

No, but only under certain, strict circumstances:
  • You must be 18 years old or over and be a member of a soft-air club to buy and possess a realistic BB gun.
  • If you are not a member of a soft-air club, but still over 18 years old, you can only purchase a non-realistic BB gun, which will be manufactured in an obscure colour (pink, yellow, etc.).
  • If you are under 18 years old, you can only possess a BB gun on private land.
BB guns (which fire ball bearings or plastic pellets) are often played with as toys but remember they are not toys and they can be very dangerous and, potentially, could seriously injure somebody.

You must remember that a BB gun is considered to be an imitation firearm, which is defined under the Firearms Act 1968 as :

"any thing which has the appearance of being a firearm whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or missile”.

It is illegal to carry an imitation firearm in public, and the consequences of doing so could be very serious. If you carry a BB gun in a public place, you are potentially risking your life. If a member of the public sees it and calls the police, when they arrive, and they inevitably will arrive quickly, the police will not know that your child is a loveable, but naive Fortnite playing teen who respects authority. The police will have to assess the risk that an armed individual poses to them and to the public. There is a real possibility that he could be shot by armed response officers, who will not know if the weapon is real or not, as it is often not until a gun is a examined by a firearms expert that it is established exactly what it is.

At Burton Copeland we spend many hours each year representing children in the police station who don’t appreciate the severity of their actions, scared and overwhelmed by the whole situation. Kids are oblivious to these laws and many parents are too, as they played with toy guns when they were younger and so fail to see the problem.

Children can be criminally liable from the age of 10. By being aware of the Law, teenagers can appreciate how frightening it could be for members of the public to see a BB gun, and how frightening it would be for them had they been arrested, placed in a police cell with the prospect of a criminal record that could affect them for life.

Awareness is crucial. If you own a BB gun, the safest thing to do is contact police and arrange to hand it in at your nearest station.