A three-year-old shot repeatedly with a BB gun suffered bruising all over his body, police say.

Such instances have been among a number of air-gun incidents dealt with recently by Whakatane police, including some armed call-outs.

Police in Rotorua have not noticed an increase in the number of callouts to incidents involving BB guns but say they take any such incidents very seriously.

Senior Sergeant Malcolm Collins said Rotorua police were called to jobs involving BB guns from time to time.


"It has to be taken seriously because they do look like the real thing.''

Whakatane police Senior Sergeant Bruce Jenkins said the police had been called to several incidents involving BB guns over the past couple of weeks involving people aged between 3 and 20 years old. He said in one incident, a 3-year-old was shot with an air-gun a number of times.

"This week we had a father come in and drop off a BB gun at the police station because his 3-year-old had been shot a number of times and had bruises all over his body.''

Mr Jenkins was unsure if the shooter was a relative or even known to the family.

He urged people, especially parents, to be responsible when buying BB guns, and to make sure their children were supervised when using them because of the dangers involved.

"Each of these times we had members of the public be concerned enough to ring the police _ we haven't gone of our own volition. They have been concerned in relation to whether the BB guns are firearms or replica-type toy guns, and the intention of the person that's got them.

"Sometimes it's obviously kids. Other times it's not so obvious, so much so that a member of the public will call the police.''

Mr Jenkins said police had to treat any call from the public about firearms as the "real deal''.

"We're asking for parental supervision, taking care and responsibility in the use of these BB guns.

"There are two major issues _ first, they can easily take an eye out. Secondly, the police when responding to these jobs, with the information they have, are responding as if it is a real firearms incident. We would be remiss if we responded and didn't treat it as the real deal.

"I don't expect any of my staff to go into a potentially armed incident without taking precautions, which often means they are armed.''

Mr Jenkins said from 2m to 3m, it could be easy to tell if a pistol or rifle was real, but it was harder to determine from a greater distance.

"We always use caution and go into the incident and prepare to defend ourselves, which can mean taking and presenting firearms.

"Some are obvious as to what the situation is, with young kids playing. We have also dealt with less than desirable people in relation to these BB guns in the last couple of weeks.''

Possession of BB guns was not illegal, although Mr Jenkins said the possession of firearms without a licence under the age of 18 was illegal if discharged by a form of explosive, including a gas canister.

Mr Jenkins said a BB gun wasn't illegal. However, it was illegal for someone to intentionally or recklessly shoot someone with a BB gun as that amounted to an assault.

He said a people using BB guns put themselves at greater risk, especially if armed police had to respond.

"Know what your kids are up to and what the guns are being used for.''