Children’s Rights Commissioner Leda Koursoumba expressed concerns on Tuesday as to the interior ministry’s bill to grant teenagers learners’ hunting licences and said that any decision should be based on whether 14-year-olds are mature enough to handle a weapon.
Koursoumba, said in an announcement that she finds it “worrying that in the debate on this issue, there is absence of a child-centred perspective based on children’s rights”.
The announcement said that any discussion and any decision, “should be based on a comprehensive and documented assessment of whether granting learners’ hunting permits to 14-year-old children, serves and promotes their interests as to their developing skills”.
Such an evaluation, it said, should first consider whether the maturity and training of 14-year-olds, allows them to use responsibly a hunting rifle in a way as to not harm themselves or others.
“Furthermore, it should be examined whether a 14-year-old teenager, can be deemed as to always have the discipline required in order not to misuse the hunting rifle in, for example, an interpersonal confrontation with another teenager or a domestic dispute,” it said.
“The responsibility of the state is for children to have the opportunity to develop an all-round personality in preparation for a responsible life in a free society, within a spirit of understanding, peace and tolerance, as required by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
The commissioner, the announcement said, raises the question of whether offering education to a child on the use of a hunting rifle and skills to kill birds and animals contributes towards that end.
It added that Koursoumba’s office will return with detailed positions on the matter.
The interior ministry had said last week that it will table before parliament a law amendment to grant 14-year-olds learner licences. The move was deemed necessary, it said, to control the way the youth are learning about hunting as a sport because they currently learn usually from their fathers or other licenced hunters, which is at the moment is an illegal practice.
The proposal provides that interested teenagers will be given the licence only if they pass the exams that follow obligatory courses on the ecology of hunting, the rules governing the conduct of hunting, as well as the safe storage, transport and use of guns.
The ministry said that the proposed legislation does not have the slightest connection with the possession of weapons, but concerns exclusively the possibility of granting a learner’s hunting licence to persons under 18. The legal age limit for gun possession, the ministry said, will still be 18 years of age.