Unsurprisingly, anti-gun campaigners said they were shocked by the high figures of young licence holders and “have called for the practice to stop”.

Anti-gun campaigner for national pressure group, Mothers Against Guns, Michelle Forbes, said: “I don’t understand why we are encouraging youngsters to play with guns; they are not toys.”

Predictably, the League Against Cruel Sports also jumped on the bandwagon, stating: “What is society coming to when children as young as nine are issued with shotgun licences?”

Jill Grieve, of the Countryside Alliance, commented the story fails to understand legally held firearms are not the problem: “The problem is the use and abuse of illegal firearms. The users of legally held guns for sporting, target or pest control purposes are among the most law-abiding and responsible members of the community, a fact recognised by both the government and the police.”

The rest of this story will appear in the 30 August edition of Shooting Times.