It's important to know the laws and safety guidelines about knives, guns and weapons in general.

Don't carry a gun or knife 'just in case'

When am I in the wrong?

Knives and guns are obviously offensive weapons. But so is anything else you've adapted to cause injury. If you're caught with something that could be used as a weapon, it's up to you to prove you weren't going to. If you're found guilty of carrying an offensive weapon in public, you could face a fine, prison, or both.

Knives

In the UK it isn't illegal to own a knife in private, except flick knives, butterfly knives and disguised knives. But used in a threatening way, any knife becomes an offensive weapon.

It's illegal to buy any knife if you're under 18 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and under 16 in Scotland.

It's an offence to carry any knife in public, even if it's sitting at the bottom of your bag.

If caught, you could face two years' imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.

But it's legal to have a knife in public if you need it for your work (e.g. if you're a chef or a carpenter); if you have it for religious reasons; or if it's a penknife less than three inches long, which you have no intention of using to hurt anyone.

Guns

You need a licence to own a gun and there are strict restrictions on getting one.

You have to get two people to tell the police you're responsible enough to own a gun.

If you're aged 14 - 17 you can use an airgun (as opposed to a gun that uses bullets) at a gun club or on private property if you have permission.

If you're over 17 you can buy airguns and ammunition as long as the gun is under the UK legal limit of 12ft.lbs muzzle energy for rifles and 6ft.lbs muzzle energy for pistols. Guns over that limit need a fire arms certificate before they can be owned.

Handing weapons in to the police

  • Look out for weapons amnesties, in which you can hand in an offensive weapon without risk of prosecution.
  • Whatever the reason you have an offensive weapon, police advice is to contact your local station to arrange to hand it in. But bear in mind you could still be charged with possession.
  • If you find a gun or a flick knife, police advice is not to touch it, but to report it to the police either in person or over the phone.

Worried about being shot or stabbed?

Even if knife or gun crime is an issue in your area, you're unlikely to be a victim of it. News stories about innocent people being shot or stabbed are horrific, but rare.

Avoid dodgy areas and take all the usual safety precautions.

Don't carry a gun or knife 'just in case'. If the police find them, you'll be in trouble. Plus statistically you're more likely to be shot if you're carrying a gun. Carrying a knife is just as dangerous.

If you believe you're in immediate danger, for instance from a gang that uses knives and/or guns, go to the police.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.