Armed police were called to a Wetherspoons pub after a man was reportedly spotted inside with a gun.
Horrified punters in the Sir Norman Wisdom in Deal called the emergency services after they saw the man carrying what looked like a firearm.
Armed officers arrived at the Queen Street pub at about 8.35pm on Friday, but the man had already left.
Following a search, he was located in nearby Park Avenue and arrested on suspicion of possessing a firearm in a public place.
However, it was soon established the man had actually been in possession of airsoft guns, having gone to the pub after collecting them from a repair shop, and had not intended to cause any alarm.
After the man – who was described by a spokesman as being of “previous good character” – admitted to possessing an imitation firearm in a public place, the incident was resolved by way of a community resolution in which he was required to write a letter of apology to those affected.
The incident has prompted a warning from police, with bosses saying there has been a spike in the number of imitation firearms officers have been forced to seize.
Det Ch Ins Patrick Milford, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “Between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, we recovered 75 BB guns and 26 other air weapons in Kent including two sub-machine guns and 19 rifles.
“While it is an unfortunate fact that criminals will sometimes arm themselves with imitation firearms in order to commit robberies and other serious offences, there are also a number of incidents every year in which members of the public who would otherwise consider themselves law-abiding find themselves in handcuffs.
“This can be avoided by never taking an imitation firearm out in public and by transporting it inside a bag or case if you are planning to play a combat sport at an approved location.
“If you are a parent or carer, please ensure you are aware of what items your child may be leaving the house with. As well as being illegal to possess in public, air weapons including BB guns also have the potential to cause serious injury in the wrong hands.
‘Kent Police is committed to keeping the county’s streets safe and all reported firearm sightings are treated with the utmost seriousness.
“While it is fortunately rare that legitimate firearms are seen or discharged in Kent, we understand how difficult it can be for members of the public to tell the difference and will do everything in our power to protect them and prevent any unnecessary concern.’