MORE than 100 children in North Yorkshire are authorised to use guns, figures show.

The youngest gun licence holders included six children under the age of 13 with legal access to a shotgun.

The data, published by the Home Office, shows 117 youngsters aged between 14 and 17 hold a shotgun certificate while 15 others of the same age group have firearm certificates. The data does not cover air guns.

It comes amid separate calls from York Central MP Rachael Maskell and The Gun Control Network for "robust" and stricter laws around gun ownership in the UK.

The MP said: “Firearms are dangerous weapons, and tragically we hear of how they can be used to cause harm to people and animals. I do believe we should have tighter restrictions around firearms, air rifles and crossbows and have campaigned on this in Parliament, which then led to a Government review. We are still waiting for Government to respond to this review, five years on.

“Laws are there to protect the public and they should be robust. Government must now turn its attention to access to firearms. I seriously question why a young person under 18 years old should ever need to hold a licence. Government mustn’t wait for another tragedy to occur before they act.”

Meanwhile Peter Squires, of the UK Gun Control Network, said: "The fact that children can be licensees is a ridiculous anomaly, given that children could never be legally responsible in their own right for the safety and security of the weapon.

"GCN believe firmly that the privilege to own and use a firearm should be tied very closely to the responsibility for its use and security. This cannot be assured with children."

However Martin Parker of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation said current legislation benefits those in training for Olympic and Commonwealth shooting disciplines and those being taught pest control techniques.

In a county with more rural, natural environments, the use of guns in North Yorkshire could be attributed to farming families using guns to protect their livestock from foxes.

Mr Parker said: "Encouraging younger people to enjoy the benefits of responsible shooting, while teaching the principles of safety and self-discipline, is to be encouraged."

What are current laws for gun licences in the UK?

  • The law restricts children to the use of firearms for animal slaughter, sport, competition, target shooting and the shooting of vermin.
  • Youngsters cannot purchase their own weapons or ammunition but are entitled to possess some firearms from the age of 14.
  • Certificate holders under 15 are allowed to borrow shotguns for use under adult supervision but cannot be given a shotgun of their own until they reach 15.
  • There is no minimum age to hold a shotgun certificate in England and Wales, but a child must be over 14 to have a firearm certificate.
  • For anyone to obtain a firearm or shotgun certificate, the chief officer of North Yorkshire Police must be satisfied that they have good reason to have a weapon, that they are fit to be entrusted with it and that public safety or peace would not be endangered.

A Home Office spokesperson said the UK had some of the toughest gun laws in the world, with firearm possession subject to stringent controls.

They added: “There are strict controls on young certificate holders who must be thoroughly vetted by the police.’’