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YOUNG BLOOD - In the news
Posted 1 February 2002
The following article appeared in the News of the World, 3 February 2002.
Gun fans are tempting children as young as THREE into a culture of shooting and bloodsports. The move has outraged MPs, who are calling for a ban on the use of ALL guns by children under 14. One gun magazine featured a toddler posing with a freshly killed pheasant. Others show blood-smeared kiddies with birds and rabbits they have shot.
Gun ownership in Britain has fallen by 275,000 in 15 years and enthusiasts are eager to recruit youngsters. There is NO lower age limit for USING a rifle, shotgun or airgun-as long as the child is supervised by an adult.
A boy of NINE was recently given a shotgun certificate by West Sussex police. An estimated 4 million airguns in Britain need NO licence at all.
The Hungerford and Dunblane massacres, which left 35 people dead, led to bans on automatics and handguns. But Labour's Steve McCabe wants more curbs. He says all guns, even airguns, must be outlawed for under 14s. And he wants air weapons licensed.
Mr McCabe said he was "horrified" by the case of the nine-year-old. He added: "This cannot be right. Children, some of them barely old enough to lift a firearm, are being targeted by a gun lobby desperate for new recruits." Countryman's Weekly has said that in the past "budding sportsmen were introduced to the art" by parents or relations but many young people now lacked the opportunity of starting shooting. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation website features a "Young Shots Gallery" where children send photographs of themselves and animals they have killed.
These recruitment tactics "potentially damaged youngsters" said Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid. A Select Committee of MPs has urged Home Secretary David Blunkett to take action, and the Commons will debate the issue this month.
Mr McCabe believes the push by the gun lobby to interest children shows it has broken a pledge to act responsibly and regulate itself. But Carl Cox of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation said current legislation was tough enough. More education was what was needed. He added: "We have seen that more and more restrictions don't work. It is illegal weapons that are the problem."
Mr Blunkett is known to be concerned about youngsters taking up shooting. A Home Office spokesman said: "We are considering the need to exercise further powers as a matter of urgency." Meanwhile the Countryside Alliance says a poll reveals that most people believe gun lessons for children would end any "unhealthy glamour of firearms."