The police and BASC reassure shooters that this is not the case.

The email, which was changed from its original version and subsequently circulated among shooters, prompted concern after it described how Devon and Cornwall Police were targeting 4×4 vehicles ? especially in shooting areas and particularly if they are muddy and it is after lunchtime.

The email went on to state ? incorrectly ? that in one incident in Devon, both the driver and passenger of a 4×4 were breathalysed, purely because they were in possession of shotguns.

BASC?s Mike Eveleigh said that the association had been besieged with calls

from worried members: ?I have contacted several firearms licensing departments in different parts of the UK and none has any knowledge of such a policy, if, in fact, it exists. It is a shame that this seems to have caused unnecessary distrust of the police.?

Devon and Cornwall Police?s assistant chief constable, Paul Netherton, reassured shooters the situation described in the email was fantasy: ?This story has been blown out of all proportion. Despite reports, the passenger was not breathalysed. This would have been a routine Christmas drink-drive campaign check where only the driver was breath-tested. We are definitely not targeting muddy 4x4s in Devon and Cornwall.?

He went on to say, however, that it is worth reiterating the law surrounding

shotguns and alcohol.

Under Section 12 of the 1872 Licensing Act: It is an offence to be drunk on a highway, public place or licensed premises, with a loaded firearm.

He added: ?If the gun is unloaded and in its slip, however, that isn?t an offence. Having said that, being in possession of a firearm, even if unloaded, bears responsibilities and I wouldn?t recommend anyone being drunk around guns.?