Police issue guidance on lawful air gun use

Police in North Devon have issued guidance on the lawful use of air rifles.

Police in North Devon have issued guidance on the lawful use of air rifles. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Advice given following recent reports by concerned members of the public.

POLICE in North Devon have issued guidelines on the public possession and use of air weapons in response to a number of recent reports by concerned members of the public.

Acting Sergeant Andy Wills contacted the Gazette to help clear up ‘confusion’ about lawful use.

He said: “While there are a whole host of offences which relate to shotguns and licensable firearms, we understand that there may be some confusion regarding the lawful use of air weapons and we would like to remind the community of their obligations.

“Often their use will not require a firearms certificate, and as such the knowledge base of users is likely not to be so high.”


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PC Wills issued the following guidance to help otherwise legitimate users of air weapons to stay on the right side of the law.

Age restrictions?

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If you are aged 18 years or older there are no restrictions on buying an air rifle and ammunition, and you can use it wherever you have permission to shoot.

If you are aged 14-17, you can borrow an air rifle and ammunition with permission; use an air rifle, without supervision, on private premises where you have permission.

Under 14-year-olds can only use an air rifle under supervision by a person aged at least 21 on private premises with permission from the occupier.

Where you can shoot?

Where you intend to shoot, always ensure that you are authorised by the landowner or person with the sporting rights and that you know precisely where the boundaries are. Get permission in writing, if possible, to remove any doubt.

Whenever you are in a public place you should carry the rifle in a gun cover and always ensure that it is unloaded and not cocked.

It is an offence to fire an air rifle pellet beyond the land where you have permission to shoot. Where someone under 14 is shooting, both the young person and the supervising adult can be prosecuted.

It is also against the law, in England and Wales, to fire an air rifle within 50 feet of the centre of a highway if this results in someone being injured, interrupted or endangered.

What can you shoot at?

Targets. Anyone wishing to shoot wildlife must comply with ‘general licences’ which are subject to change. The current list of licences can be found on the Natural England website under the regulation and licensing section.

Further information is available on the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) website, or from Devon and Cornwall Police.

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