A DISTRICT MP is calling for tougher measures to be imposed on the sale of imitation firearms.

Philip Davies – whose Shipley constituency includes Cullingworth and Denholme – made the call after it was revealed that nearly 900 crimes in West Yorkshire during the past six years have involved the use of an imitation firearm.

A Freedom of Information request found that between 2013 and 2018, 888 ball bearing (BB) guns were used in a string of crimes.

The data covered every imitation firearm used in a crime, from a blank firer to soft air weapon, but BB guns were used in the vast majority of cases.

In each of the last four years, West Yorkshire Police recorded more than 125 cases of a fake gun being used in a crime and in 2017, there were 238 recorded incidents.

At the moment, anyone buying a BB gun must be aged over 18.

Mr Davies said the introduction of tighter checks should be considered because of the fear an imitation firearm can bring when it is produced in public.

“I’ve seen real guns and imitation firearms and it’s difficult to tell them apart from up close – never mind when you’re far away,” he said.

“It’s a massive issue and it can be terrifying for anyone who comes face to face with one.

“When someone is waving an imitation firearm in front of a police officer it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between that and a real gun.

“There is an argument for putting more stringent conditions on the sale of them.”

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said: “Ball bearing guns resembling real weapons are available for legal sale under UK law to persons over 18 years of age, but can only be sold to registered members of soft-air-gun clubs.

“It is a criminal offence to carry any ‘imitation firearm’ style weapons in public and the consequences of doing so can be extremely serious with those carrying them putting their lives at risk. West Yorkshire Police confiscate these weapons if it is suspected they have been involved in any form of crime and holds regular firearms amnesties in which it encourages members of the public to hand in these and other firearms.

“In the latest fortnight-long firearms surrender which concluded on Sunday, August 4, officers recovered 59 weapons classed as air, gas or BB-style devices. Anyone owning an imitation-firearm-style BB gun is encouraged to hand it in to the police.”

The surrender was staged as part of a national initiative, with Keighley Police Station among the locations where weapons could be taken.