Airgun users aged between 14 and 17 would need the supervision of someone over 21 when using an airgun if proposed changes are passed

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Shooting groups are lobbying against the Home Office’s proposed amendments to airgun legislation, which would prevent those between 14 and 17 taking an airgun out alone, even in a private garden.

Of particular concern is the impact on thousands of under-18s who use airguns as part of their work for pest control in farming and gamekeeping.

Curtis Mossop, BASC’s head of pathways to shooting, said: “The government has significantly underestimated the impact this proposal will have on those who use airguns. As well as for recreation and competitive shooting, thousands of under-18s use their airguns as part of their work. Be it an apprentice gamekeeper or a farm worker undertaking pest control.”

“Airguns can only be used by 14–17 year olds with permission from the owner and on private premises. This is a more than adequate legal instrument to ensure safe and responsible shooting. This restriction will significantly impact on education and those wanting to move onto other shooting disciplines.”

A 15 year old air rifle shooter summed up the issue, telling Shooting Times: “It would be detrimental to my air rifle shooting as my dad is not always available to come out with me. If this change was to come into force then it would stop me and many other young Shots from gaining shooting experience. Not only that but it would also cause fewer young people to get involved in fieldsports as they would not have the opportunity to get out shooting.”

BASC has launched a campaign to stop the changes. The organisation’s director of firearms, Bill Harriman, said: “We have launched this campaign to raise awareness of what we believe to be an unnecessary and damaging proposal.

“There is no body of evidence to justify removing the exception and if the proposal is successful it will have serious ramifications for the wider shooting community,” he added.

The  National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) Agriculture and Rural Issues chairman Tom Pope, said: “This is an issue that will certainly affect our members, many of whom are already dealing with challenges due to the pandemic. We hope that together, BASC and NFYFC can have a positive influence on the outcome of the consultation.”

Airgunning rats at night

Mat Manning thinks the current legislation is adequate

Shooting Times contributor Mat Manning added: “The move would obviously impact on young people’s contribution to pest control on farms and estates but it also takes away a freedom from responsible teenagers.

“Current legislation states that parents own and should be in control of an airgun used by someone under 18, and it is for them to decide whether the young person is ready to use an airgun unsupervised at 14, 15, 16, 17 or not at all. I believe that is adequate control.”