Long term readers may remember that I have a passing interest in firearms legislation. It thus quite surprise me to come across this little piece from Tuesday’s Home Affairs Select Committee, following questioning on the Cumbria shooting and firearms licensing. It’s worth noting this is an “uncorrected” transcript, but I have reviewed the video recording and it is accurate for general content – this exchange starts at about 11:55.
Chair: What Dr Huppert is asking is …what is the age that we should allow people to apply [for a firearms certificate]? You are the ACPO lead on firearms, [Specifically, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers Firearms and Licensing Working Group] so presumably you have a view on this.
Adrian Whiting: I have a view that, because children as young as 10 have been able to shoot perfectly safely with a shotgun certificate, there is no reason to interrupt that, and I suppose the difficulty is that the corollary follows that if there is no evidence to suggest that children of that age, properly supervised in appropriate conditions, can shoot safely, why would you not apply that to the firearms certificate? What I would say there is that the nature of the shooting-the environment in which it takes place-is different.
Chair: Of course, but if you were looking at consolidating this and making it one age, so it is not confusing to members of this Committee and the public when they donâ€™t know at what age they can apply, what age would the ACPO lead on firearms suggest would be appropriate?
Adrian Whiting: The minimum age would be 10, I would suggest, Sir.
This drew a nervous laugh from the Chair, my impression is that he wasn’t quite sure what to make of the response. I’m hoping there is some misunderstanding here and the law is very complicated which is what prompted the questioning in the first place. A look at the Metropolitan Police page on Firearms Age restrictions suggests it’s quite legal for a 15 year old to have a certificate for and own a shotgun. The idea that the ACPO might think it reasonable to lower that age limit to just ten is bizarre – I do not let my eldest daughter who is just a few months shy of her 10th birthday anywhere near my air rifle unsupervised and that’s a firearm that’s weak enough that it does not require any firearms certificate. The law, reasonably to my mind, says that she will have to be 14 before she is allowed to use it unsupervised.