Gun licences for children as young as EIGHT

Children as young as eight have been granted shotgun licences in Northamptonshire, raising serious safety concerns.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed a total of 65 firearms or shotgun licences were given to children under the age of 18 in the county over the past two years.

The youngest child to be granted a licence was eight, with two 12-year-olds, seven 13-year-olds and 10 children aged 14 also being granted the necessary paperwork.

Licences were also given to 19 children aged 15, 18 aged 16 and eight 17-year-olds.

A total of 76 Section 2 firearms, which includes shotguns, were licensed, along with 13 Section 1 firearms.

Brian Binley, the Conservative MP for Northampton South, said: "It surpises me. I find it concerning that a child of eight has access to a gun. However, I assume the police, who are responsible for the granting of these licences, have taken the appropriate checks in this case.

"I would like to see a system where any child under the age of 12 who has a licence has a number of strict conditions attached and if these conditions are not met it becomes the responsibility of the parents involved."

The Labour MP for Northampton North, Sally Keeble, said: "If you get children used to handling guns with live ammunition, it introduces them to what is potentially a lethal weapon at an age where they cannot possibly understand the potential implications of the damage they can do."

A large number of certificates were granted in rural villages, where shotguns are used by the farming community for vermin control and shooting game.

Police said there was no minimum age requirement for holding a licence and that a certificate would be issued to anyone who was not banned under the Firearms Act or did not pose a risk to public safety.

A police spokesman said: "In Northamptonshire we encourage people to use firearms sensibly and always do a home check before issuing a licence."

But the figures have been criticised by campaign groups, who say it is irresponsible to allow young children to have guns.

Zanna Maison, of Mothers Against Guns, said: "I'm shocked and disgusted that police are giving out certificates. The mentality of eight-year-olds is not strong enough to understand that a gun can cause so much harm."

Jill Marshall Andrews, of the Gun Control Network, said: "We should be trying to make guns less available to the young, not more."