Late last year, the police told MPs that they thought 10 year olds should be allowed firearms licences for all types of firearm, not just shotguns. Despite growing up in rural England, I’m not a fan of this position and personally I would not let my nearly 10-year-old daughter even handle my air rifle unsupervised, let alone something like a shotgun or rifle.
In fact, doing so would be illegal – You can now be prosecuted if an under-18-year-old gains unauthorised access to your air rifle (18 seems a little old given you’ll be trusted with a fully automatic 5.56mm rifle if you join the Army at 17!) and it’s been illegal for some time for an under-14-year-old to handle an air rifle without supervison.
Watching the video of the proceedings at the time, it seemed that MPs also thought this was an odd police position and even governmental policy is heading towards restricting children accessing firearms.
My gut feeling looks to have been correct as Labour MP Thomas Docherty has introduced a Firearms Amendment Bill to impose a minimum age limit of 14 on shotguns. Here’s what he had to say on the matter in parliament when introducing the bill last week:
At present there is no minimum age for possessing a shotgun licence. This is at odds with the legislation covering other firearms, where there is a minimum age of 14. According to figures that I obtained from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), almost 5,000 children in England and Wales possessed a licence to fire a shotgun. Of those 5,000 or so licences, 26 were issued to 10-year-olds, 72 to 11-year- olds, 134 to 12-year-olds and 231 to 13-year-olds.