Nine-year-old granted gun licence
Campaigners have branded a decision to grant a nine-year-old boy from Walsingham a gun licence “totally absurd”. Anti-gun campaigners believe the boy, who was granted the licence in August 2006, is one of the youngest in the country to be granted a licence to fire a shotgun.
Campaigners have branded a decision to grant a nine-year-old boy from Walsingham a gun licence “totally absurd”.
Anti-gun campaigners believe the boy, who was granted the licence in August 2006, is one of the youngest in the country to be granted a licence to fire a shotgun.
Richard Dennison Norfolk police firearms manager said: “This boy is the youngest we have granted a licence to in at least five years.
“There are no specific conditions on shotgun licences if he got it for target shooting there is nothing to stop him shooting game and vermin. Once you get the licence you can use it for any legal purpose.”
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But Mr Dennison reassured local people that police followed guidelines to the letter, “a firearms officer interviews every person applying for a licence in their own home to check they are responsible enough to hold a gun. In cases of young people we sometimes also speak to their school to check their good character.
“I stress to the community that we are here to keep them safe. Until they turn 15 licence holders are not allowed to own a gun of their own, and must be supervised by someone aged over 21 at all times. And the guns must be kept securely so that others cannot access them.”
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Figures released by Norfolk police via freedom of information request yesterday revealed 243 under-16s have been granted firearm licences in the last five years.
Mr Dennison said: “There is no lower age limit restricting gun licences, in theory children as young as two could be granted a licence, because the application requires the signature of someone who has known the applicant for at least two years.
“In the eight years I have been working here I have never come across a case where someone who held a legal licence was involved in a firearm crime.”
Jill Marshall Andrews, chair of the Gun Control Network, said: “We have long been campaigning for guns to be available only to those over 18. It is totally absurd, no one that young could possibly be responsible for a gun. We should be trying to make guns less available to the young not more.
“Guns and young people are not meant to mix.”
Last night North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was “surprised at the number of licences granted to under 16s,” and said he would be calling for a meeting with the Norfolk police's firearms manager. “Norfolk is a farming community and I can understand why in some circumstances it could be appropriate to grant a licence.
“Every family has to make the judgement on whether it is safe and appropriate for their children to use guns. Personally I would make a different judgement, but I'm not in a position to blame that specific family without knowing all the details.
“I will meet the Norfolk firearms officer to discuss this case and ask whether Norfolk grants more licences to young people than other counties.
“Combating gun crime is desperately important and one of the biggest social crisis in our country. But it is usually perpetrated by people who hold guns illegally. Gun violence in London, Manchester and Birmingham, particularly involving children, is truly shocking.”
In total about 21,000 people in Norfolk hold a shot gun licence and about 3,800 hold licences for other firearms, such as rifles.
William Heal Eastern Region Director of British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said: “Only children who can prove they are safe and responsible will be granted licences. If we are going to produce more gold medal champions, like Mick Gault, they need to learn when they are young.”
Last month the EU passed a directive restricting gun possession to those aged 18 and over. The directive must be transposed into UK law by January 2010.