Officers said they have responded to incidents recently in which people in possession of air weapons have caused concern for members of the public, prompting a higher volume of emergency 999 calls.
A Sussex Police spokesperson said, “Incidents can lead to specialist officers being asked to attend, preventing them attending a genuine emergency where they are needed to protect the public in life-threatening situations.”
According to the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, there are more than six million air rifles in England and Wales.
The spokesperson added, “The vast majority are used safely and responsibly, but inappropriate use can cause serious injuries or death.
“Sussex Police is reminding those who own air weapons to know the legislation in order to prevent harm and to prevent wasting vital time for officers needing to deal with critical incidents.
“Any air weapon that has a muzzle velocity greater than 12 foot-pounds may only be held on a firearm certificate issued by the police.”
Parents are also reminded that it is an offence for a person under 18 to purchase or hire an air weapon or ammunition for an air weapon, and there are specific laws which require supervision regarding people under 18 carrying or using air weapons, according to police.
Officers also said it is an offence for any person to use an air weapon for firing a pellet beyond the boundaries of any premises and it is also an offence to have an air weapon in a public place without a reasonable excuse.
The spokesperson said, “You also commit an offence if you trespass with an air weapon, have an air weapon with intent to damage or destroy property, or have an air weapon with intent to endanger life.
“When using an air weapon, always know where the muzzle of the weapon is pointing and never point it in an unsafe direction. You must also make sure you have a safe backdrop.”
Officers said there have been occasions recently where inappropriate carriage and use of air weapons has been witnessed by members of the public.
The spokesperson said, “For example, residents in Hastings recently reported hearing shots fired by an air rifle from a window.
“A man was arrested and interviewed and accepted a police caution for the matter.”
Owners are also advised to keep air weapons with bright colours, so they are not confused for firearms by members of the public.
Police said reducing the number of calls about air weapons being used inappropriately will help officers to respond to the most urgent situations and help keep our communities safe.