DOZENS of children in Northumbria are authorised to use guns, figures show.

The Gun Control Network said allowing children to use powerful weapons, such as shotguns, is “absurd” and warned weapon security cannot be guaranteed with young people.

But the British Association of Shooting and Conservation has said teaching children how to enjoy the benefits of responsible shooting is to be encouraged.

At the end of March, 36 children aged under 18 in Northumbria held certificates granting them permission to use shotguns or firearms, according to Home Office data. They were among 9,092 people in the area permitted to use the weapons.

There is no minimum age to hold a shotgun certificate in England and Wales, but a child must be over 14 to have a firearm certificate.

The figures show 32 shotgun and two firearm certificates, granted by Northumbria Police, are held by children aged between 14 and 17 – some of whom could hold both types. There are also four children under the age of 13 who hold shotgun licences in the area.

The law restricts children to the use of firearms for animal slaughter, sport, competition, target shooting and the shooting of vermin.

Young people cannot purchase their own weapons or ammunition but are entitled to possess some firearms from the age of 14.

Certificate holders under 15 are allowed to borrow shotguns for use under adult supervision but cannot be given a shotgun of their own until they reach 15.

Across England and Wales, 2,084 certificates were held by under-18s as of the end of March, with the youngest holder of a shotgun licence believed to be just seven.

That represents a drop from 2,770 in March 2020, while in Northumbria, the number of children holding certificates also fell from 53 over the same period.

A Home Office spokesperson said the UK had some of the toughest gun laws in the world, with firearm possession subject to stringent controls.