Gun licences for seven-year-olds
Children as young as seven have been issued with shotgun certificates, data released under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed.
The figures showed 13 children under the age of 10 have been issued with licences in the UK over the past three years.
Gloucestershire police granted a licence to a seven-year-old, West Mercia and Cumbria approved a licence for an eight year old, and 10 other certificates were issued to nine year olds.
The figures, obtained by the BBC from 51 forces around the UK, showed that between 2008 and 2010, 7,071 licences were issued to under-18s.
Devon and Cornwall police granted the most certificates, 418, followed by West Mercia, 346, and Norfolk, 324.
West Mercia Police said the eight-year-old boy held a licence for clay pigeon shooting and was supervised by his father.
In December, the Commons home affairs select committee described legislation in England and Wales as a "complex and confused" mess and called for tighter restrictions on gun licences. The committee said minimum age limits should be considered "with the aim of reducing inconsistency and complexity around the use of firearms by children".
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has recommended the introduction of an "absolute minimum age" for shooting with firearms and shotguns, set at 10 years old.
A spokesman for the Home Office, which is reviewing the laws, said: "Public protection is the first duty of any government and our firearms laws are among the toughest in the world. It is right that we keep them under review and we are prepared to tighten them further if necessary. Those controls must also be proportionate and fair and all options are on the table."
Christopher Graffius, of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the UK's largest shooting organisation, said: "A shotgun certificate is a piece of paper which allows people under the age of 18 to shoot under supervision. The law still prohibits a person of this age from owning or buying a shotgun or using one without supervision. It is important to remember that you cannot buy so much as an airgun pellet in this country until you are 18.