Number of legally-held guns in Suffolk revealed - as children among licence holders

Male hunter in the woods Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Anyone who owns a firearm must register it with their local police force (stock image) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Suffolk police licenced the second-highest number of shotguns per capita in England in the past year, government figures reveal.

New data from the Home Office shows that Suffolk is behind only Dyfed-Powys and Norfolk across England and Wales for registered shotguns per 100,000 people.

Details of those who hold licences for other legally-held firearms, such as rifles, are also revealed in the figures.

Anyone who owns a firearm must register it with their local police force.

As of March 31 this year, there are 6,567 shotguns registered with Norfolk Constabulary for every 100,000 people, followed by Suffolk police with 5,827.

Among an estimated 21,295 firearms licence holders in Suffolk are 74 children aged between 14 and 17 who legally own licences for shotguns - and five youngsters aged 13 and under who are known to possess weapons certificates.

In the past year, 15 people in Suffolk had firearms certificates revoked, 273 had new applications granted, while a further five had their new bids refused.

The average number of shotguns per certificate was 2.7, very slightly higher than the national average of 2.5.

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And total firearms offences recorded in Suffolk were significantly lower than average with five per 100,000 people compared with 10 across England and Wales.

Under UK laws, people under 13 cannot lawfully hold a firearm certificate. However, some exemptions apply under the Firearms Acts which allow them to possess a firearm or shotgun in certain circumstances.

For instance, for sporting purposes, for use at a rifle or pistol club, or cadet corps, or at a miniature rifle range.

Country-wide data reveals that the youngest shotgun certificate holder, as of March 31, 2021, was aged just seven.

Robert Eldrett, secretary of the Alde Black Powder Club in Great Glemham, said young people can hold a shotgun licence but cannot legally carry or use it without adult supervision.

“Being a major farming region would no doubt be a major factor in the number of shotgun licences issued in Suffolk,” he said.

“For a firearms licence, there are far more strict rules in place.

“One way of assessing a person’s suitability to own a shotgun would be a checklist of questions regarding their suitability and lifestyle.”

Since the deadly mass shooting in Plymouth earlier this month, gun ownership - while predominantly legal and responsible - has come under the spotlight.

The attacker, a 22-year-old man who killed himself after the incident, had previously had his shotgun licence revoked by police before it was returned.

Six people were killed during the 12-minute attack on August 12.

File photo dated 13/08/21 of police forensic officers in Biddick Drive in the Keyham area of Plymout

Police forensic officers in Biddick Drive in the Keyham area of Plymouth, following the deaths of six people, including the offender, who died of gunshot wounds in a firearms incident on the evening of Thursday, August 12 - Credit: PA

It prompted all forces in England and Wales to review their current firearm processes, as well as assess whether they needed to revisit any existing licences.

Mr Eldrett added: “If the proper protocols are followed, these instances are thankfully rare.

"It's not a right to own a gun, it's a privilege. If you're not prepared to follow the rules, you shouldn't have one.

"We have some of the strongest firearms laws in Europe.”

Suffolk police confirmed it was continuing to follow and comply with national procedures and guidelines for the issuing of firearms licences following the shooting, which was Britain’s first mass shooting in more than a decade.

“People hold shotguns and firearms for various reasons both as part of their profession or for recreational purposes,” a spokesman said.

Closeup of a rifle scope. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Filipovic018

Details of those who hold licences for other legally-held firearms, such as rifles, are also revealed in the figures - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“All applicants for the grant and renewal of certificates are subjected to a thorough vetting process and the National Firearms Licensing Management System is linked to the Police National Computer enabling front line officers to have access to certificate details.

“We have a team of specialist Firearms Enquiry Officers who conduct home visits and interviews with all certificate applicants at the time of the initial grant and subject to risk assessment, at the point of renewal. 

They added: “We also visit certificate holders at any time where information is received that may bring into question their suitability to possess firearms.”

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