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Children with shotgun licences
By Fiona Macpherson
Inside Out, BBC South East

Victoria shooting
Victoria shoots pheasants, vermin and clay pigeons

Victoria was just nine years-old when she first fired a gun, and it was at the West Kent Shooting School that her talent was developed.

Technically any child of any age can be granted a shotgun licence providing they considered responsible and they are always accompanied by someone aged over 21.

Clay pigeon shooting is where most youngsters start and Victoria turned out to be quite good at it.

She then started shooting vermin.

Victoria out on a shoot
Children can be responsible enough to have a gun licence and shoot guns

Victoria often shoots with her instructor Paul Hollamby who has been working with her for three years. She believes whether you are shooting at pheasants, vermin or simply clay pigeons a child is certainly capable of taking part and may well turn out to be quite a good shot.

"It's just a part of farming life. Always has been. What I'm doing is actually more humane than putting them in traps. It's a quick death", she told the BBC. "Children can be responsible enough to have a gun licence and shoot guns. It's taught me to be mature and responsible - and it's a fun hobby too."

We take a look at the arguments, for and against, children shooting.

AGAINST children shooting

Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive for the League Against Cruel Sports

Douglas Batchelor
Douglas Batchelor

The League against Cruel sports is opposed to any child being taught to use a gun.

To put a lethal weapon in the hands of a child is in our view a grossly irresponsible act.

To teach a child to shoot to kill is in our view a grossly irresponsible act.

To teach a child to shoot vermin presumes that the child can practice their shooting skills on live targets. This leads to the child being taught that cruelty and unnecessary suffering caused by wounding while training is acceptable if the target animal is classed as vermin.

To teach a child that seeking to kill, and taking the risk of wounding any bird for sport, as is the case with a pheasant shoot, is teaching the child that it is alright to risk animal cruelty and suffering simply for sport.

Children who legally can have access to guns are not even in some cases over the age of criminal responsibility. Where the children are over the age of criminal responsibility, they cannot possibly between the age of 10 and 18 have sufficient knowledge and proficiency and maturity to be always be reliably and safely in charge of a lethal weapon.

Guns should be treated just like cars. No one be they a child or an adult should be allowed out with a gun without a provisional license, and without being closely accompanied. No one should be licensed to use a firearm or shot gun unless, just like a car driver, they have passed a written and practical test, (on non animal targets) and can prove that they are a fit and proper person to be in charge of a lethal weapon.

Most parents will be horrified by today's story about children with guns being taught to kill for fun. While the bloodsport's lobby may want to train up a load of little killers, most parents will have more sense and will keep their children well away from guns and from killing for fun.

FOR children shooting

Jenni Thompson - South East Regional Officer for the BASC (The British Association for Shooting and Conservation)

Jenni Thompson
Jenni Thompson

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) holds many Young Shots' days, where youngsters can try shooting and we see them developing a remarkable degree of maturity in a short space of time.

Shooting offers people the chance to learn self discipline, concentration skills, self control and the importance of acting responsibly. Clay shooting and airgun shooting are Olympic sports, this sort of target shooting helps improve hand-eye co-ordination and control. Guns are not toys and this is instilled in people from before the first time they shoot.

Most young people who show an interest in shooting will not pick up a shotgun straight away. They will have spent time around experienced people first, perhaps as beaters on a shoot or by accompanying family members to a clay shoot.

In this time they will learn about the bigger picture of shooting - its importance to the community, economy and the environment, its use in pest control to help limit the impact of crop damage for farmers, and its provision of healthy and nutritious food.

Ultimately it is the decision of the individual, and where youngsters are concerned that of their parents or guardians as well, whether progressing to live quarry is something they wish to do. The value of game shooting to the environment cannot be ignored.

More than two-thirds of the rural land area in the UK is managed for shooting, which consequently has a beneficial effect on many other species living in those areas. Every year £250m is spent by shoots on conservation. This investment of time, money and effort would not happen if it weren't for shooting.

The law is very strict as to what can be shot. Knowledge of the laws covering shooting, quarry identification, and respect for quarry are equally important for a young person who is just taking up the discipline to learn. They will then be carefully monitored and overseen until they have reached an age to go shooting on their own and others are confident of their abilities to do so.

What do you think? Should children be allowed to handle guns?

I understand everyones views about firearms licences but as someone said earlier not all young adults and children are 'Yobs', i wish to get a firearms licence from the age of sixteen in a few days and to hopefully aquire a 303. rifle for christmas. Weapons are dangerous, but in the right hands and with the right amount of respect they can be used safely. For my weapon i wish to use it for WW2 Re-enactments, this is one of my favorite hobbies if not my favourite and i believe that any other child or young adult who wishes to use weapons for a hobby or recreational purposes will know how to use weapons safely. In the past i have been in the army cadets and i have learnt the eleven weapon safety rules, this makes any weapon safe if followed correctly. Also Children and young adults that wish to aquire a firearms licence need two referees who have known them for two years and been with them whilst they have used a weapon, this means that the children or young adults need to be responsible and safe and it is not too easy to get a firearms licence, so children with firearms licences are 100% mature and are responsible enought to own or use a firearm.
Adam hacking, blackburn lancashire

Rabbits are pests!!! They may be cute and fluffy but that does not stop them from being pests. I am 16 years old and live in the countryside. I have been attending my local pheasant shoot since i was 6/7. I believe that children should learn to shoot. I also think many people are linking gangs in the cities with shooting in general. Not every child or young person who is taught how to use a gun is a "yob" or wanting to kill someone.
Kate Fishwick, Lancashire

I think that children are allowed to be able to use guns as some kids can be reliable and responsible. The licenses should be given out through more tests and caution, and if need be the child should have a background check if the instructor is unsure. Game-birds should also be hunted less as there are not as many as people think and more clay pigeons should be used.
Craig Wood, aged 16, Dover

I am amazed to read that a child as young as 10 can acquire a license to use a gun in the UK. In my opinion a Gun License should only be given upon a person reaching a sensible mature age of 21 regardless of any work related need.
Mr Andrew Rapley, Medway, Kent

Having been brought up shooting I recognise that I have a far higher awareness of gun safety than any of my friends ever did, an active interest in maintaining the habitat for and existence of my quarry and a love for nature where I like to spend my free time. They are not mutually exclusive. If one goes, so does the other.
Matthew Dines, Tunbridge Wells

All 4 of my children have or shoot at some point, I have no problem them handling guns as long as they are always supervised. Guns are only dangerous if you don,t educate people including children how to use them.
Simon Norcott, Maidstone

My Gran started me shooting it was often a case of cannot afford meat this week then you got your own. That was 52 years ago in the middle of Dorset when I was 10. She also explained what not to shoot and the reasons why this would help the local wildlife. My children have been instructed in this logic. Now I only shoot clays and enjoy shooting with the boys and will continue to do so as long as I am able.
Tony, Gillingham

I believe that an early introduction to guns for kids encourages maturity and responsibility. It ensures that kids know that guns are not a toy and should not be treated lightly.
Cosmin Maris, UK

Comments such as shooting helps develop self control, social skills and concentration are stab at trying to make something that is wrong look right. These skills can be learnt through more positive and much nicer sports.
Viv, Sevenoaks

I am dead set against children with guns! There are other ways of teaching children responsibility or where our food comes from. I also disapprove of hunting or any other blood sports. Our food does not come from hunters, except maybe deers. We don't need to hunt anymore. Our "food" is bred and it's not shot dead.
Heike Meffert, Mainz Germany

In the countryside we get lots of animals (pests) that need killing and at some point children that are going to be farmers will need to be taught this skill.
Bob Thomas, Dorchester UK

The problem is, the more you tell a child 'No', wait until you are old enough, the more addictive an activity is likly to become in adulthood. I would not want my children handling guns, and I would be very wary of kids that do, but the danger comes when the education that goes with the practice is deficient.
Teena, England

In an ordinary Japanese view, seeing someone handling guns, either a kid or an adult, is already very uncomfortable. Of sourse more so with children.
Naoko, Tama, Japan

Here in the USA we have developed a "guns kill" attitude, when in reality it is the people who pull the trigger who do the killing. By teaching children to handle guns safely the accidental kill rate for children who find guns in their, or their friends homes can be significantly reduced. Its just like anything else, if you are taught to handle it safely, then the risk of injury or death is reduced.
Colin Erskine, Portland, USA

I have been bought up with shooting since i was 5 years old (im 20 now) and from that instance i was taught gun safety by my dad - that knowledge and respect for guns still exist to this day. Youngsters should be allowed to shoot from an early age as it would help them for the future (to have respect, safety and responsibility)
Matt Lewis, Tonbridge, Kent

How sad that young children are indoctrinated into accepting that using live animals for target practice is ok. I wonder how many animals, which are shot at for fun, are injured and die a slow death?
Paul, West Devon

I recently bought an air pistol for my daughter 10 and she does triathlon with the pony club. Running, swimming shooting. Soon she'll be on tetrathlon. Why on earth should she not learn to handle a gun?
Giles Bradshaw, Rose Ash

The shooting of "vermin" is a different issue to children shooting. In this respect, I believe that where children show genuine interests and are encouraged to develop themselves in a responsible and adult manner then this should be encouraged. If children grow up having a mature approach to things such as guns, drink, vehicles, generally the better they will behave as adults. There is too much of "ban it" culture in the UK and it does not work. Positive education is the answer. As for crime, people commit crime if they are that way inclined, whether they shot rabbits as a child or not. People kill people, not guns.
Phil, Canterbury UK

I am really shocked by a 12 years old, shooting 'vermines' a rabbit or a pigeon are not vermines, when we try to teach our children to look after our countryside, to be green, when a young one kills and says it is ok, when she should play with a doll. I want to know if a pheasant is as well a vermine. So if it is ok to let a child play with a gun why do we stop teenagers to play with knifes? Go back to school girl, be a little girl, the wild life will be grateful. (Sorry for my English, I am French)
Joe, Folkestone

How many accidents and crimes are there involving children and young adults and firearms?
Sara Coxon-Hayles, Rennes France

Of course children should be allowed to shoot if they are interested enough , I learnt when I was a child in Kent!! I am now 80 years old and it never turned me into an irresponsible Adult , So if a kid wants to learn let them
quonset, Canada

Children should be able to shoot as it's a fun bobbie and does help get rid of many rabbits and other things too
Fraire, Maidstone

Children should absolutely be allowed and encouraged to learn to shoot. Learning to shoot teaches so many things, including safety, responsibility, social skills and respect (for both quarry and other shooters). It's something that in these times should be actively encouraged as a life skill, something from which children would benefit immensely. the answer isn't to shield children from everything that is seen as dangerous or unpleasant, as this will only serve to perpetuate the myth that guns are bad. It's thanks to this kind of mentality that our kids don't even know where their food comes from any more! Educate them, learning and understanding is never a bad thing.
Scott Strachan, Portsmouth UK


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