Several shotguns were stolen during a burglary in the Steyning area of Sussex on 4 February. Two Lancaster shotguns worth £7,000 each were stolen, as well as a Radcliffe shotgun worth £1,500 and an AYA shotgun worth £500.

Lincolnshire police have also reported shotgun thefts in the county: ?We are investigating the theft of two £5,000 shotguns which were stolen from a farm on 11 February. Thieves broke in through a window and removed a shotgun cabinet from a wall and forced it open. Farms tend to be an obvious target as there is a high chance the occupants will be certificate holders,? a spokesman commented.

Thieves appear to be targeting farm buildings across the country for high-value shotguns.

West Sussex police?s detective constable Christopher Howbery-Gale has told Shooting Times magazine: ?The numbers of shotguns stolen from rural, isolated farms have seen a marked increase. I appreciate security can be hard on farms, but I urge shooters to make sure that cabinet keys are not left in an obvious place.?

However, BASC?s Bill Harriman dismissed the police calls as alarmist: ?These thefts are more likely opportunist burglaries where the villains have happened across guns. Theft of machinery such as quad bikes and chainsaws is far more likely. Theft of guns from houses is very low. Sporting guns and rifles are not attractive to criminals. I do not subscribe to the notion that expensive guns are being nicked for sale in the UK. The police computer licensing system should detect them if they were sold on.?

Mr Harriman advised: ?Always secure your gun after use and be alert to any strangers behaving suspiciously in your area. Perimeter security is very important too. Make sure all security lights are working; check that sheds and garages are locked; lock your car and set the alarm, and don?t leave anything lying about that might attract a thief.?

Anyone with information on the thefts should call Horsham police station on 0845 607 0999, or Stamford police station on 01780 752222.

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