Home Office plans to introduce new controls on the sale of air weapons have been welcomed by retailers. As part of amendments to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, the sale of air weapons, which are often used in store robberies, will be restricted to registered firearms dealers approved by the police.

Anyone who wants to own an air weapon must first pay a £150 registration fee and prove to police they are fit to hold a certificate. The minimum age limit for owning such a weapon will be increased from 17 to 18, and the weapons will have to be purchased in person from an approved dealer, who will ask for proof of identity and age. Home Office minister Hazel Blears said: “The government utterly condemns the misuse of air weapons and is determined to tackle the problem.

“These new amendments will further tighten controls by increasing the age limit for owning an airgun, the introduction of a new offence of firing an air weapon beyond the boundary of the premises, and tougher restrictions on the manufacture and ownership of imitation firearms.”

Jacksons stores security manager Bailey Oliver, who oversees 115 c-stores, backs the government’s new stance on air weapons. He said: “We have an issue with crime against our stores where the use of firearms is prevalent in places like Leeds and Nottingham. In many cases, airguns are waved in front of the faces of staff who, not surprisingly, believe them to be the real thing. If we can get these weapons out of the hands of would-be criminals it would be a tremendous help.”

Appean Sharma, who runs a Costcutter in Eltham, south London, said: “We’ve have cases of airguns being used to try to intimidate staff, because, in the blink of an eye, they are hard to distinguish from a real firearm. I welcome any plans to keep them better regulated.”