COUNTRYSIDE campaigners have attacked moves to set a minimum age for shotgun licences, claiming research proves under-14s with certificates “pose no risk to the public”.
The Countryside Alliance said their figures, which show that in the past 10 years only two people under the age of 14 have had shotgun certificates withdrawn by the police, prove “conclusively” that the young take the responsibility of handling shotguns seriously and efforts to stop them entering the sport of shooting “must be condemned”.
The current law states that if below the age of 15, certificates only allows young people to borrow shotguns and use them under the adult supervision. The Alliance also said that their research shows no link between illegal gun crime and minors with shotgun certificates.
The group were responding to a campaign from Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty, who is trying in a parliament to ban under-14s from holding a licence and claims senior police agreed with the need for a minimum age.
David Taylor, shooting campaign manager for the Alliance, said sport shooting teaches children discipline, sportsmanship and responsibility and that restricting access to what is an Olympic sport in the year of the London Games is “deeply misguided”.
“There is simply no justification for a minimum age for holding a shotgun certificate,” he said. “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 because of one person’s failure to comprehend our existing laws.”
Mr Docherty’s Private Members Bill is due to be read on Friday.
He said he understood why people needed guns for land management and sport, but added: “Do we have to wait until we get a tragic accident involving a seven or eight-year-old before we take action?”