Airguns must be locked up.
The Government introduced a new offence last week to stop under-18s gaining unauthorised access to airguns.
From 10 February, owners will be liable for a fine of up to £1,000 if they to fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent their airguns from falling into the hands of children.
A circular sent to chief police officers says that the definition of reasonable precautions will depend on each individual case and it is therefore not possible to be prescriptive.
It goes on to say that different considerations will apply depending on whether an air weapon is in use or not.
Home Office crime prevention minister James Brokenshire said: ?For the vast majority of responsible air rifle owners, keeping firearms safely locked up is routine, but when an airgun is allowed to get into the wrong hands, the consequences can be tragic. There have been cases in recent years where children have got hold of carelessly stored airguns – with this new legislation, we are saying there is no excuse. If you do not keep your airgun safely away from children you will be prosecuted.?
The move is backed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
Adrian Whiting, ACPO?s spokesman on firearms and licensing, said: ?The police service supports this control on the security of air firearms. Responsible owners already take sensible precautions to ensure safe storage of their air firearms. This control will place no additional burden on them.?
?For those owners who have a lax attitude to storage, this provision should encourage them to take action to improve safety. ACPO has been involved in the work leading to this order, which we hope will improve the security of airguns and prevent harm and serious injuries.?
BASC?s director of firearms, Bill Harriman, said: ?It is regrettable that a small number of incidents have prompted Government action. However, we support measures that will reduce the misuse of airguns while not further restricting the safe use of airguns by law-abiding owners. This is a common sense approach and one that is already followed by the majority of airgun users.?
There are estimated to be up to seven million airguns in the UK, mostly used for pest control and target shooting.
Safety leaflets explaining the new legislation will be included with every airgun purchased, and BASC says it will produce practical guidelines on how to abide by the law.