WIGAN youngsters as young as 13 have been granted a gun licence.
Figures obtained by the Wigan Observer reveal that last year a 13-year-old was granted a shotgun certificate in Wigan, along with two 14-year-olds, one 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds.
The previous year, in 2009, Greater Manchester Police granted two 13-year-olds shotgun certificates.
A 15-year-old and three 17-year-olds were also issued licences to use guns.
Meanwhile, a 16-year-old was granted a firearm certificate last year, which is more difficult to obtain, as the weapon fires bullets as opposed to cartridges or blanks, used in shotguns.
Overall, there are currently 1,754 shotgun certificates held by adults and under 18s within the Wigan borough and 445 firearm certificates held.
Last year, there were 675 shotgun certificate applications granted and 169 firearm certificate applications in the borough. Greater Manchester Police refused five shotgun licences and one firearm application.
In 2009, there were 274 shotgun certificate applications granted, with a further 110 firearm certificate applications granted.
Six people were refused shotgun certificates and one person was not able to possess a firearm certificate.
Each licence costs £50 and lasts five years but can be withdrawn if the police discover anything that suggests possessing the shotgun or firearm would cause a danger to the public.
A spokesman from Greater Manchester Police said that all applicants undergo rigorous background and criminal checks and licences are issued for controlled sporting or farming occasions.
Jim Jones, GMP’s firearms and explosives licensing manager, said: “Rigorous background and criminal record checks are carried out on everyone who applies for a shotgun certificate.
“If an application is made for a certificate by a child, we visit the family home to interview him or her in the presence of their parents or guardian to establish that the request is genuine and reasonable.
“In the case of young persons rigorous checks are also undertaken in respect of those persons who would be supervising. “An example of when a child may be issued with a shotgun certificate would be if a parent or guardian wanted to take them clay-pigeon shooting.
“Ideally, the parent or guardian would also have a certificate, but this is not essential.” He added that children under 15 cannot have in their possession an assembled shotgun or ammunition unless under the supervision of a responsible adult of 21 years or over.
Children under 18 cannot purchase or hire any shotgun or ammunition and youths under 14 cannot have a firearm certificate.