MORE THAN 60 children in Hampshire have been granted licences which allow them to use guns, figures show.

A total of 69 children aged under 18 in Hampshire held certificates giving them permission to use shotguns or firearms, according to Home Office data.

They were among 22,556 in the area permitted to use the weapons as of the end of March this year.

There is no minimum age to hold a shotgun certificate in England and Wales, but a child must be over 14 to be eligible for a firearm certificate.

The figures show 66 shotgun and six firearm certificates, granted by Hampshire Constabulary, are held by youngsters aged between 14 and 17 – some of whom could hold both types.

There are also three children under the age of 13 who hold shotgun licences in the area.

Southampton councillor, Spiros Vassiliou has voiced his concerns about the figures.

The Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture and Heritage, said: “It sounds worrying. I think this is something that needs to looked at on a national level. Certainly we would want to do more around education to try and reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. It does not sit well with me.”

Representing Swaythling, he said he would raise the issue with the MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes.

The law restricts children to the use of firearms for animal slaughter, sport, competition, target shooting and the shooting of vermin. They can’t buy their own weapons or ammunition but are entitled to possess some firearms from the age of 14.

The Gun Control Network said allowing children to use powerful weapons, such as shotguns, is “absurd” and warned that weapon security cannot be guaranteed with youngsters.

But the British Association of Shooting and Conservation says teaching children how to enjoy the benefits of responsible shooting is to be encouraged. Across England and Wales, 2,084 certificates were held by under-18s as of the end of March, with the youngest holder of a shotgun licence believed to be just seven. That represents a drop from 2,770 in March 2020, while in Hampshire the number fell from 99 over the same period.