The number of legally owned firearms in Scotland soars

TEENAGERS as young as 13 have been granted shotgun licences in Scotland – according to Scottish Government figures.

And the number of legally owned firearms and shotguns in the country has rocketed by more than 25,000 in the last 10 years as there are now more than 200,000 legally held weapons in Scotland.

The law allows children as young as 14 hold a certificate for a rifle and use it without supervision and there is no lower age limit for owning a shotgun.

Frank Blake, whose wife Mary, a teacher at Dunblane Primary School, was seriously injured by Thomas Hamilton, hit out at the soaring number of legally owned firearms. He said: “Issuing children of 13 with licenses is madness. What does a child want with a gun?”

Northern Constabulary, which issues the most Scottish gun licences, revealed they gave them to 51 people aged 13-18 last year.

And 48 other teens – from age 15 – were given shotgun firearm certificates by Lothian and Borders Police in 2009.

Grampian Police, Scotland’s second-highest area for firearms certificates, say their youngest holder is 15.

A spokeswoman for Northern Constabulary said: “We have 51 teenagers with a shotgun or firearms certificate. None has had their licences revoked.

“They are fully investigated before receiving licenses.”

According to Scottish Government figures, Scotland has a legally held gun for every 24 people.

By the end of last year there were 26,072 firearm certificates, covering possession of 70,856 weapons, an increase of 20 per cent since 2000.

There were also 50,308 shotgun certificates covering the possession of 137,768 shotguns, up 11 per cent in the last decade.

Licenses cost £50 and last five years and last year 1671 shotgun licenses were issued and only 22 applications rejected.

Currently, there are 208,624 legally held guns in the country.

That’s up from 182,856 in 2000.

This compares with 1.7 million weapons legally held in England and Wales – one for every 31 people.

MSP Richard Baker, Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “It’s worrying the number of legal guns has risen and I’m very concerned at how young some licence holders are.

“I understand some families in rural areas need them for pest control but we have to look closer at which child has a gun and why.”

SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell says that applicants should have to prove they merit a license.

“It’s also valid to ask why 99 per cent are granted.

“Gun legislation needs overhauled with greater scrutiny given to its applicants. It’s a good argument for devolved gun legislation.

“My fear is we are adopting a more American lifestyle where guns are more acceptable.

“More licensed guns also mean a greater number will find their way to criminals through theft and being sold on.”

Police forces must be satisfied the applicant has a good reason for wanting a weapon, is fit to be entrusted with it and that public safety will not be endangered.

Anyone who has served a prison sentence for three years or more may be banned from having a gun for life.

Accepted reasons for having a gun cover sport and work, such as gamekeepers.

Dr Colin Shedden, director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation Scotland, said: “Most forces wait till children go to secondary school before granting licenses.

“BASC Scotland has been encouraging participation in shooting for many years.

“Shooting is an important part of the Scottish economy. Independent research puts its value at £240 million per year.

“The number of offences involving firearms in Scotland fell by 17 per cent in 2008-9, and only a small fraction involved legitimately held guns.”

REPORT: Amanda MacMillan

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