Children, 10, get shotgun licences

CHILDREN as young as 10 are being issued with shotgun licences by Suffolk police, an EADT investigation has found.Anti-gun campaigners have condemned the decision, arguing children are not responsible enough to use the powerful weapon.

Anthony Bond

CHILDREN as young as 10 are being issued with shotgun licences by Suffolk police, an EADT investigation has found.

Anti-gun campaigners have condemned the decision, arguing children are not responsible enough to use the powerful weapon.

A Freedom of Information request found that an 11-year-old has been given a shotgun licence by police already this year, while in 2006 a 10-year-old was handed one.

In the past five years 182 under-16s have received shotgun licences from Suffolk police which are valid for five years.

Rebecca Peters, director of the International Action Network on Small Arms, said: “A child of 10 is by no means equipped to take on such responsibility. This is a legal loophole which the UK Government must close.”

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Chris Mole, Labour MP for Ipswich, said he was surprised by the findings.

“I think that to handle a weapon of any sort outside of a controlled environment requires a degree of maturity and responsibility and I am not sure that can be guaranteed from a young person.

“I am surprised that children as young as 10 are being given shotgun licences. Application forms require the counter signature of a responsible person who I would hope would think twice about signing a form for somebody of that age.”

Suffolk police said the law does not provide a minimum age for shotgun certificates but children under the age of 15 must be supervised by a person over the age of 21 at all times.

A youngster applying for a shotgun licence would have to submit an application which needs to be countersigned by a parent or guardian and counter signed by an independent person.

Following that an officer would attend the youngster's address and conduct an interview in their home in the presence of their parent or guardian and assess suitability.

Richard Kennett, Suffolk police's firearms services manager, said: “We can only enforce the law as it is and that is what we are doing. The law does not stipulate a minimum age for them to learn how to use a gun properly under supervision. Clay pigeon shooting is an Olympic sport and if youngsters are interested in a sport like that, if they are not introduced to it at an early age they would possibly not reach the standards to partake in that event.

“People perhaps when thinking about young people and guns think about inner city crime which has got nothing to do with lawfully-held shotgun.”

William Heal, Eastern Regional Director of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, said:

“We start training them as youngsters at the age of 10 because we find that the younger you train them the more safe and responsible they are. I have been training youngsters for 17 years from the age of 10 upwards to be safe and responsible and all the training goes towards that. There has never been a problem or incident with a youngster and shotgun in the country as far as I am aware.”

Number of shotgun licences issued to under-16s

2003 42

2004 41

2005 22

2006 45

2007 32

Age of the youngest person in Suffolk to be issued with shotgun licence.

2003 10

2004 10

2005 11

2006 10

2007 11

2008 11

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