POLICE are visiting secondary schools across Hyndburn as part of a scheme warning youngsters not to play with imitation guns.
The initiative is called Don't Be a Target - STOP Having Fun With Guns.
It aims to warn children of the dangers of playing with imitation guns, including the fact that police marksmen may mistake a toy gun for a real one.
Police spokesperson Liz Riding said: "We don't want to scare children or make it too dramatic, but we do want to get the message across that there are many dangers of playing with toy guns.
"It is often very difficult for even an experienced police officer to tell the difference between a toy gun and a real one, especially at a long distance. We receive a lot of calls from distressed members of the public when they see children playing with guns. Some toy weapons can look very realistic."
The campaign was introduced following changes in the laws governing toy weapons and air guns. Under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, it is now an offence to carry an imitation weapon in a public place.
Ms Riding said: "Legislation has changed and people need to be aware of this.
"We know that parents are often under pressure from their children to buy them toy guns, but they should realise that if they carry them in a public place they are breaking the law.
"So far, the response from teenagers has been very positive. Armed police units have visited schools and we have also set up a leaflet and poster campaign. Hopefully, this will get the message across."