THE regulation of air weapons licensing will now be reviewed by the government.

The decision to review the regulation comes following the case of Benjamin Wragge, aged 13 from Suffolk, who died in May 2016 after he was accidentally shot with an air weapon.

RSPCA bosses have welcomed the decision after they announced 4,828 airgun incidents were reported to them between 1 January 2012 and 30 June 2017.

In Lancashire, 168 airgun incidents were reported to the RSPCA in the same period of time, nine of those occurring in the first six months of 2017.

More than 1,800 of the total reported airgun incidents were against cats.

Cases of animal abuse in East Lancashire include stray cat Rufus who was found in Accrington after being shot in the head by an air rifle.

He was cared for by the Friends of the Cats charity and rehomed.

Andy Richards, the founder of the charity, said: “This is fantastic news.

“It’s something we have always hoped for ever since the shooting of Rufus and Jasper.

“There has to be a tidying up of the legislation as it seems anybody can get a hold of these weapons for their own evil intent.

“We have heard parents giving these guns to their children to use.

“If they think the children are going to be shooting cans on the wall they are fooling themselves.

“I am shocked to hear of the number of cats that are reported to the RSPCA.

“I can only presume that because they are free roaming animals they are more likely to be seen as a target.”

David Bowles, RSPCA assistant director of external affairs, said: “The RSPCA welcomes this announcement and any review around the regulation of air weapons licensing.

“It is heartbreaking that such a tragic incident has sparked this review and our thoughts go out to Benjamin’s family and friends, but we hope that any future regulations around the licensing of these weapons in England and Wales will better protect people, children and animals.

“The RSPCA has long been calling for stricter regulations around owning airguns as well as better education and explanation for those buying an airgun.

“Our 24-hour cruelty hotline receives hundreds of calls every year reporting airgun attacks on animals.

“Last year, we received 890 calls and this year looks set to top that and, worryingly, reach a five-year high.

“Animals can suffer horrendous injuries and often die as a result of airgun attacks and these weapons are potentially extremely dangerous for people as well.”