GUN incidents have quadrupled in the past year, new Home Office figures reveal.

It means Wiltshire Police had proportionally the highest increase in gun-related crime of any police force in the country.

Reports jumped from 10 in the 12 months to March 2017 to 39 the following year - the equivalent of 290 per cent.

Senior officers said greater awareness of violent crimes and terrorism could be behind the rise in Wiltshire reports.

Asst Ch Const Gavin Williams, the officer at Wiltshire Police with overall responsibility for firearms incidents, told the Swindon Advertiser: “Although we’ve seen a rise in the number of firearms incidents nationally it is important to keep these figures in context – we still have one of the lowest number of firearms offences in the country.”

Asked why he thought reports were on the rise, Mr Williams cited the public’s greatest awareness of gun crime and the heightened terrorist level.

“Nationally, firearms incidents have gone up. The world’s a changing place," he said.

“We will get more reports in, but that doesn’t mean to say we are deploying to significantly incidents.”

Many children’s toys made to look like guns now look a lot more realistic than they did in the past:“We’ve got to treat every report as real unless we know otherwise.”

Last year, armed police screamed into Manchester Road over reports of a man having walked from the town centre with a pistol in his hand. The heavily armed officers pulled the man out of his Broadgreen terraced home and cuffed him on the ground.

Rather than the deadly weapon, it emerged the man had simply carried a water pistol home. One eyewitness, 51, said: “The police said to him, ‘Have you got a pistol?’ He said, “I’ve got a water pistol in the bedroom.’”

Mr Williams said: “We take offences linked to or involving firearms incredibly seriously and each one is dealt with robustly. We have a number of trained and experienced specialist officers who support the community policing teams to effectively deal with firearms incidents when they arise.”

Genuine firearm finds in Swindon and Wiltshire were usually linked to dangerous drugs gangs, he added. Last summer, a court heard a 17-year-old drug dealer had been kidnapped by older gangsters, who played a game of Russian roulette.

However, generally the gangs are using knives or other weapons: “Many county lines gangs, if they are well established, will have access to firearms. But that doesn’t mean to say they will bring them to Wiltshire.”

Working in a relatively safe county with comparatively little competition for territory, the gangs would be unlikely to risk a hefty prison sentence and bring a gun with them from the capital: “That would be really upping the anti for no reason.”