Shotgun certificates issues to more than 3,500 children and teenagers

Youngsters use shotguns for target and country shooting.
Youngsters use shotguns for target and country shooting.
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More than 3,500 children and teenagers have shotgun certificates in England and Wales, new figures show.

Of a total 3,541 under-18s with the documents at the end of March, 327 were aged 13 or under, while 3,214 were between 14 and 17.

The Home Office statistics were not broken down further but Freedom of Information responses have previously revealed that certificates have been issued to children as young as seven.

Youngsters use shotguns for target and country shooting.

There is no minimum age for applying for a shotgun certificate, but the law prohibits children from using them without supervision of an adult aged at least 21 until they are 15.

In addition, children and teenagers aged under 18 are banned from purchasing or hiring any firearm or ammunition.

There are 3,602 holders of shotgun and or firearms certificates aged 17 or under, the figures show.

Firearms certificates cover guns other than shotguns, such as rifles, but these are restricted to those aged at least 14.

It is the second year that "experimental" statistics breaking down certificate holders by age have been included in annual figures.

Overall, there were 154,958 firearm certificates on issue at the end of March, covering 559,302 firearms, and 561,413 shotgun certificates covering 1.3 million shotguns.

A total of 580,658 people held a firearm certificate and/or a shotgun certificate, a decrease of 1%, or 7,023, compared with the previous year

A certificate can cover several guns.

Police forces with the highest number of firearm certificates were Devon and Cornwall (11,144), Sussex (6,934) and North Yorkshire (6,734).

Those with the lowest number were City of London (3), Merseyside (1,029) and Cleveland (1,125).

The UK is seen as having some of the toughest gun control laws in the world.

Applications are examined and then granted or refused by local police forces after a number of checks including interviews, visits and references.

Certificates can be revoked if a chief officer is satisfied that the holder can no longer be entrusted with firearms or shotguns.

The figures showed that 358 firearms certificates and 1,216 shotgun certificates were revoked in 2016/17, with both numbers falling by 10% on the previous year.

In 2015 an inspection report warned Britain could face new gun massacres unless changes were made to the regime governing firearms licensing.