213 gun licences held by Suffolk under-18s

MORE than 200 people under-18 have a licence to own a gun in Suffolk, according to figures released this week.

There are 213 gun licences currently in operation in the county for people under 18, out of a total of 787 firearm certificates and 2,633 shotgun certificates.

It is legal for under-18s to apply for firearms or shotgun licences, although additional restrictions apply. People under 15 can have their own shotgun licence but can only use the weapon while under the supervision of someone over 21.

Police officers also carry out extra checks, including interviewing the child and their family.

A spokesperson for national lobbying group Gun Control Network said: “One of our objectives is that we are calling for a minimum age of 18 for the ownership, use and possession of all guns, so we would be very seriously worried about anyone under 18 being granted a gun licence.”

The figures were released to the BBC following a Freedom of Information request. But some groups have hit out against these claims, saying it is important that children involved in shooting as a sport are taught how to use weapons safely from a young age.

Chloe Finch, a spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance, said: “There is a world of difference between gun crime and shooting as a sport.

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“Scouts and guides, for instance, use firearms taught in a controlled environment. Charlotte Kerwood won her first Commonwealth Games gold medal [for shooting] when she was 15.

“Legal firearms shooting as a sport is worth something like �1.6billion to the economy. It is such a big industry and hundreds of thousands of people take part in it perfectly legally every year, so it is something we actively promote.

“People who allow their children to hold a firearms licence and actually go out shooting have a good understanding of guns.

“Safety is always paramount. Every shooting lesson you go to, regardless of experience, is controlled and done in a safe environment.

“These children have a better understanding of guns and are drilled in the dangers of them from the second they enter any proper shooting environment.” A spokesperson for Suffolk police, whose Firearms Licensing Department controls the issuing of licences, said they had to follow guidelines set by the Home Office.

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