Cameras that resemble realistic firearms will shortly be outlawed from sale in Britain, landing any offenders with a maximum sentence of 51 weeks in prison and a £5,000 fine, AP can reveal.

The rules form part of the Violent Crime Reduction Act which has recently been given Royal Assent and which could come into force within months, a Home Office spokesperson confirmed to AP.

Though it will still be legal to own a replica gun camera, the news will dash collectors? hopes that these items would escape the legislation, re-igniting fears that their kit will be rendered worthless when the law takes effect.

When we first reported the potential impact of the incoming rules the government had not decided whether cameras would be exempt (see AP News 10 September 2005).

Asked what this means for collectors the Home Office spokesperson told us: ?If it is not distinguishable (for all practical purposes) from a real firearm then it [falls] under the regulations. It would be illegal to sell that item.? But, she added: ?They will be able to keep it as a collector?s item.?

According to the Home Office the law will not apply to any replica that resembles a firearm dating from before ?1870?.

Collectors who are unsure of where they stand are urged to seek legal advice, as each will be dealt with on a ?case by case? basis. ?It would be a matter for the courts to decide,? said the Home Office spokesperson.

Reacting to the news, Michael Pritchard, director of Christie’s Photographic Auctions, told us: ?While most cameras designed to look like guns, such as the Erac, are obviously not guns there are a small number which are far more realistic looking and these very rarely come to auction. The Enjlabert, which was made from real revolver parts, and the Japanese Doryu (pictured) are the best known examples.

Pritchard added: ?Christie’s will take further specific advice regarding such cameras when we are approached by potential consignors to ensure that we comply with the law. For the majority of collectors and dealers in collectible cameras the new Act is unlikely to have any significant impact but it is important that there is an awareness of its implications and AP is right to draw attention to this matter.?

When AP first exposed the government?s plans the move was slammed by collectors? fair organiser Wally Morley who described such a law as trying to ?smash a nut with a sledgehammer?.

Also incensed was camera collector Max Sarch who owned a camera styled on the Lewis gun used on First World War fighter planes. Speaking in 2005 he warned collectors that gun cameras will be worthless when the legislation takes effect.

Exceptions listed under the law will include selling such items to a museum or gallery, for the making of a film or ?historical re-enactments?.

The government is yet to set an exact date for its introduction.

? For a fuller report keep an eye out for next week’s issues of AP, in shops on Tuesday 23 January.

Picture credit: Christie’s Images Limited