Plans to build a controversial rifle range at a new £23million education academy in Bristol have sparked a debate over whether children should be exposed to fi rearms at schools.

The range, which is likely to use air and .22 calibre rifles, will be sponsored by the Merchant Venturers, and will be used for out-of-hours activities.

Despite reassurances from both Government and shooting organisations, some parents and anti-gun groups have, unsurprisingly, expressed outrage at the plans. Last May, sports minister Richard Caborn also attracted criticism after he pledged to boost the number of young people taking part in shooting sports. Referring to the Bristol plan, one parent even told BBC News last week: “It would be teaching them to use firearms and encouraging them to go around shooting people.”

David Penn, of the British Shooting Sports Council, told Shooting Times: “Parents can rest assured that shooting is a very safe sport. For example, in Italy in 2006, there were no deaths in target shooting while there were 120 swimming-related fatalities and 38 mushroom-picking ones.”

Director of shooting at the National Small-bore Rifle Association Geoff Doe stressed that the range will teach children discipline, control and respect for others: “Films, TV and video games all glamorise shooting. Having a person properly introduced to the sport in a controlled environment demystifies guns. The sport is being blamed for the ills of society.”

The rest of this article appears in 7 February issue of Shooting Times.

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