Young People and Guns

AuthorLaura Saunsbury/Nick Doherty

Chapter 14

Young People and Guns


14.01 To all the other regulations and restrictions affecting the use of guns and their ammunition Parliament has added special provisions for young people under 18 years of age.1These provisions vary according to age, depending upon whether the person is under 14, 15 or 18, vary again according to the kind of act done in relation to firearms and ammunition, and vary yet again according to the type of firearm or ammunition which is involved.

14.02 The principal sections of the FA 1968 regarding young persons are sections 22 to 24. The relevant official guidance can be found in Chapter 7 and Appendix 4 of the Guide.


14.03 A firearm certificate may only be granted to a person aged 14 years or older. As well as not being able to obtain a firearm certificate under the age of 14, those under 14 cannot have possession of a section 1 firearm except when acting as a gun bearer or as a member of a Home Office-approved rifle club.


14.04 A shotgun certificate can be granted to persons of any age. A person under 18 is prohibited by section 22 of the FA 1968 (as amended by the VCRA 2006 and the Firearms (Amendment) Regulations 20102) from purchasing or hiring any

1FA 1968, ss 22–24A, as amended by VCRA 2006, ss 33(4); Firearms (Amendment) Regulations

2010 (SI 2010/1759) and VCRA 2006, s 33(5). A person attains a particular age expressed in years at the beginning of the relevant anniversary of the date of his birth (Family Law Reform Act 1969, s 9(1)). Thus, a person becomes 18 at the midnight immediately preceding his 18th birthday.

2SI 2010/1759.

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firearm or ammunition defined by section 57. Section 24A(1) of the FA 1968 also prohibits the purchase of imitation firearms by those under the age of 18.

14.05 Possession of shotguns and ammunition by those under 18 is permitted where they are a certificate holder at any age, or where they are being supervised by someone over 21. Supervision is not necessary where the shotgun is not assembled, or is in a suitable slip to prevent it being fired.

14.06 Further, it is an offence to gift a shotgun, or shotgun ammunition, to a person under 15, although those under 15 can purchase such items if they have a certificate. We had to advise that a shotgun offered as a prize by a well-known manufacturer in a high-level clay shooting competition could not be given to the winner, a certificate holder aged 14.

14.07 Although there is no age limit in respect of a shotgun certificate, in our experience, it would be highly exceptional for a shotgun certificate to be granted to a child aged less than 12.

Air weapons

England and Wales

14.08 Section 22(4) of the FA 1968 creates a prohibition on the possession of an air weapon by those under 18, and section 23 sets out the exceptions to that prohibition. A person under 18 is permitted to have possession of an air weapon on private premises when supervised by someone over 21, although he cannot fire it beyond the boundary of that land without the consent of the adjoining landowner. Possession of an air weapon under 18 is also permitted at any age at a miniature rifle range or as a member of a Home Office-approved club. Those who are under 18 but over 14 can use an air weapon on private premises with the consent of the owner, and there is no requirement to be supervised by a person over 21.


14.09 In Scotland the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, section 7 now requires a person under 18 to have a certificate to be in possession of an air weapon in that jurisdiction. To obtain a certificate the person must be over 14 and requires the consent of the parent or guardian. The applicant for an AWC must demonstrate a good reason for possessing such a weapon. A statutory condition for all AWCs for those under 18 is that the holder may not purchase, hire, accept a gift of or own, an air weapon. In order to obtain a certificate in Scotland an applicant of any age has to show a ‘good reason’, as with an application for a firearm certificate. For a young shooter at least one of the following conditions will then be applied to the certificate, dependent on what the police have accepted

as a good reason. The six possible reasons for those under 18 are: for sporting purposes (including shooting quarry) on private land; target shooting on private land; taking part in events and competitions; target shooting as a member of an approved air weapon club; for the protection of livestock, crops or produce on land used for agriculture; or pest control.3At least one reason has to be conditioned on the licence, but it may be all six. The exceptions in section 23 which apply in England and Wales do not apply in Scotland, therefore no person under 14 can possess an air weapon in Scotland.

General exceptions

14.10 The general exceptions to firearms law in the cases of the Proof Houses and antique firearms, which are considered at para 1.51 et seq and para 1.53 et seq respectively, also apply to young people. It must be borne in mind that the possession of and other dealings with firearms by young people which are permitted under the headings now to be discussed will nevertheless in many cases be illegal unless covered by the necessary firearm or shotgun certificate, the need for which is discussed in Chapters 3 and 4.

14.11 So those under 18 cannot purchase:

▪ air weapons and ammunition for air weapons;
▪ imitation firearms, realistic imitation firearms and deactivated firearms;
▪ readily convertible replicas (as defined by section 1 of FA 1982);
▪ blank ammunition; and
▪ unless they hold a relevant certificate, section 1 firearms and ammunition or a smooth-bore gun or shotgun cartridges.4


14.12 As suggested by the above summary, a number of offences are created, many of them with exceptions. This produces a complex situation which may perhaps best be examined by considering each of the offences in turn and seeing how each applies to the different age groups and what exceptions each may have. For further clarity, a table is given in this chapter in an attempt to deal with all these offences in summary form.

Firearms and ammunition

14.13 Both these words are given lengthy definitions in FA 1968 and are fully discussed at para 1.05 et seq and para 1.42 et seq respectively. These definitions

3A breach of a condition on a Scottish AWC is punishable by a level 3 fine: Air Weapons and
Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, s 6(5).

4FA 1968, s 22(1A).

202 The Firearms Law Handbook

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