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Our View: There is no justification to give gun licences to teenagers

DISY DEPUTY and president of the House human rights committee Stella Kyriakidou, speaking last week about the government bill that would allow children over 14 to use shotguns as ‘learner hunters’, said that she could not express an opinion about the issue because first she had to hear all sides and read up on the practices of European countries. She did however say that she had asked the president of the House environment committee for the two committees to have a joint session when the bill was submitted as the matter was directly linked with children’s rights.

This was a peculiar stance by Ms Kyriakidou, who normally speaks directly and openly about social issues and avoids sitting on the fence as she has done now. Which side does she need to hear to conclude the obvious, that giving permission to children of 14 to use shotguns, even in the presence of adults, is wrong? There is no room here for liberal sentiments and open-mindedness. Just as the law bars children of 14 and 15 from driving cars, riding motor-bikes, buying alcohol and cigarettes, quitting school, voting in elections and having sex, it should also prevent them from using shotguns. By what logic should a 14-year-old that is not allowed to drive a car, even in the company of an adult, be allowed to use a shotgun in the company of an adult?

The interior ministry’s reasoning is that the introduction of a ‘learner’s shotgun licence’ for minors was a good way for them to learn good hunting practices and learn all the rules for safe use and storage of rifles. The bill stipulates that teenagers would have to follow a course and pass an exam at the end in order to secure the ‘learner’s’ licence. By the same thinking the authorities should allow a 14-year-old to drive a car, so he or she would learn good driving practices.

At the moment, the ministry said, youths were getting their hunting education from their fathers or other hunters, but this was illegal. But as it is illegal should the ministry’s primary concern not be the enforcement of the law rather than drafting a bill that would make it legal for children of 15 to fire shotguns? The reality is the authorities have no intention of enforcing the law regarding the use of shotguns by minors because the violations are widespread. The interior ministry decided that the introduction of regulation, via the issuing of the ‘learner’s’ licence it would exercise some control.

The reasoning, based on the absurd assumption that teenagers could be trusted with guns, could not have been more flawed. It is to be hoped that deputies, after they hear both sides (as this is necessary) will reject this bill.

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