What are the rules governing the use of air guns in the UK?

A 12-year-old boy was arrested and handcuffed at his north London home on 17 July after he was seen with a toy gun. Kai Agyepong was eventually dearrested after police officers established that it was a plastic pellet gun.

Here we look at the legislation behind such weapons.

What are they?

BB and pellet guns are types of air gun. An air gun fires projectiles with compressed air or other gases, in contrast to a firearm, which uses combustible propellants to create propulsive energy.

What is the law around air weapons?

Most of what people need to know about the use of air weapons can be found in this Home Office guide.

It is an offence to have an air weapon in a public place without a “reasonable excuse”. It is ultimately for the courts to decide what constitutes a “reasonable excuse”.

It is an offence to have an air weapon with intent to endanger life, as well as intent to damage or to destroy property, or to be reckless as to whether property would be damaged or destroyed. It is also against the law to deliberately kill pets, certain wild animals and birds.

In terms of age prohibitions, it is an offence for a person under the age of 18 to purchase or hire an air weapon or ammunition for an air weapon.

It is an offence for anyone under the age of 18 to have with them an air weapon or ammunition for an air weapon unless they are under the supervision of a person aged 21 or over.

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However, if the person is 14 years old or above and is on private premises with the consent of the occupier, supervision is not required.

How easy is it confuse them with firearms?

Air gun models can be designed to look like firearms. However, many are designed with two-tone colouring, to distinguish them from real firearms.

However, even with the two-tone colouring, the weapons are often shaped and sized much like firearms.

Has anyone been killed or injured by an air gun?

Sadly, yes. Ben Wragge, 13, was fatally wounded in Thurston, Suffolk, on 1 May 2016 by an air rifle. A coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.



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