Children 'no risk' with shotguns

image captionChildren issued with shotgun certificates cannot own a gun, and must be supervised by an adult

Police revoked just two shotgun certificates given to children in the past decade, according to the Countryside Alliance.

The campaign group released the figures as MPs prepare to debate whether to introduce a minimum age of 14 for holding a shotgun certificate.

More than 7,000 under-18s received certificates between 2008 and 2010.

There is currently no minimum age for qualifying, but an anti-gun group said under-18s should not get certificates.

In a Freedom of Information request sent to police forces in England and Wales, the Countryside Alliances asked how many people under the age of 14 had shotgun certificates revoked between 2000 and 2010.

One individual under-14 lost their certificate in Essex following an allegation of criminal damage.

Suffolk and Norfolk Police forces, which have a joint firearms unit, revoked a certificate held by an individual who had been accused of burglary.

Some 33 police forces provided information, although eight, including the Metropolitan Police, did not.

'Disingenuous arguments'

The pro-shooting Countryside Alliance released the figures ahead of the second reading of a backbench bill that would set a minimum age of 14 to qualify for a shotgun certificate in England and Wales.

MP Thomas Docherty says his bill would close a legal loophole but would not necessarily prevent under-14s from firing the weapons when supervised by an adult.

But David Taylor, of the Countryside Alliance, said there was no justification for a minimum age.

"Thomas Docherty has failed to understand the complexities of the licensing system and puts forward disingenuous arguments to support his fragile case.

"Many young people, potential Olympic gold medallists, could be prevented from enjoying their sport."

The Countryside Alliance says firearms laws are so complicated that many parents who want to introduce their children to sports shooting have no option other than to seek a certificate for their child.

Tighter controls

However, the Gun Control Network, which campaigns for tighter controls on firearms, says that no one under the age of 18 should be issued with a shotgun certificate.

The group's chairman, Gill Marshall-Andrews, said: "We want to see shooting become less popular.

"It is an anachronism that youngsters are still allowed to have licences and we would like to see it all standardised at the age of 18.

"Children and guns don't mix."

Figures obtained by the BBC last year show that 13 children under the age of 10 had been issued with shotgun certificates in the previous three years.

Children issued with shotgun certificates cannot own a gun, and must be supervised by an adult

The youngest child in the UK to be granted a licence was seven years old. Between 2008 and 2010, there were 7,071 licences issued to under-18s.

Devon and Cornwall police granted the most certificates, 418, followed by West Mercia (346) and Norfolk (324).

Governments have never banned young people from using shotguns because of their association with country pursuits which many parents want to pass on to their children.

However, young people who want to have a certificate must go through a vetting process and prove that they want to use a shotgun for a legitimate purpose such as clay or game shooting. Anyone who is under 15 must be supervised by someone over 21 when handling a shotgun.

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