Shootings in America spark debate on firearms regulation
THE tragic shooting of 26 innocent people in an American School has sparked debate across the world on gun policy at home and abroad.
Twenty pupils and six staff were killed by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14.
And although firearms are much harder to get hold of in the UK than in the US, where they can be bought over the counter, there is still a considerable number of potentially dangerous weapons in Humberside and Lincolnshire – 81,399 registered shotguns and sporting firearms, in fact.
In simple terms, the difference is that a firearm has a rifled barrel and fires bullets; a shotgun is smooth bore and fires cartridges or blanks. It's easier to obtain a shotgun licence than a firearms licence, but if a shotgun can hold more than three cartridges or has a detachable magazine or the barrel length is less than 24 inches then it is classed as a firearm and needs the relevant licence.
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There are three main uses for guns here – sport, vermin control and game shooting. Shotguns are generally used for shooting birds and small mammals and clay targets.
Steve Davidson, secretary of the North East Lincolnshire Target Club, said: "Shooting is probably the safest sport in the country because it is so tightly-controlled.
"We have found that more and more people are coming into the sport.
"Our club has around 120 members and we believe that guns are not dangerous and guns don't kill people, people kill people.
"In this country you cannot get a firearm legally without a full criminal record check.
"I have found that shooting as a sport does not attract the wrong kind of person.
"I wouldn't want to see the law increased in our country because I think that we have the right balance of restrictions. At the club we provide for a whole range of shooting needs, from air pistols to section one firearms.
"The vast majority of our members own their own guns and all the shooting on our two 25 metre ranges takes place under the guidance of a range officer."
There are certain regulations that must be followed if someone wishes to own a firearm or shotgun.
Firearms officer Alan Booth from The British Association for Shooting And Conservation added: "It is harder to obtain a firearms licence than one for a shotgun.
"For a firearm the person applying for it has to fill in an application and submit it to the police.
"They also need to submit two people for references who in turn answer questions on the applicant and send them back to the police.
"The police then do background checks on all three people.
"If everything appears to be as it should an enquiry officer from the police will pay the applicant a visit to check to see if they are suitable to hold firearms.
"The house is also checked as well as the gun cabinet that has to be already installed.
"There has to be a good reason for every gun you have applied for.
"You must also show that you have access to suitable land to use a gun on. Previous experience is also necessary when applying for a firearm.
"If everything is as it should be a report is sent through to the firearms department and then a certificate can be sent out.
"For shotguns you still have to show good reason to why you want one but you do not have to have experience.
"All background checks are the same and once you have a certificate you can have as many shotguns as you like as long as they are stored suitably.
"There is no minimum age for someone to have a shotgun but young people have to be supervised.
"However, to have a firearm you have to be at least 14-years-old."
Shotguns are generally seen as a piece of equipment that keeps pests under control and entire industries afloat.
Game dealer Billy Walker from Grainthorpe said: "I buy game after it has been shot.
"Without the guns I wouldn't be in business.
"We have around 700 pheasants coming in every week and without shooting we wouldn't have any.
"Guns are an essential piece of equipment and keep people in business.
"The rules around guns are very strict in this country. I think we use common sense when it comes to gun law."
Although shotguns and sporting guns are highly regulated, air weapons can be bought over the counter with valid identification.
Dave Moore, owner of Dave's Airguns and Army Surplus in Freeman Street, Grimsby, said: "To buy an air rifle you have to be 18-years-old but you can be any age to use one as long as the person is supervised.
"To buy an air gun you have to show a valid ID and give your name and address which we then register before we give you the weapon.
"They can be dangerous in the wrong hands but the regulations have tightened so you do have to prove who you are.
"Air rifle shooting is a very popular sport because you can practise at home as long as everything stays within your boundary.
"I think the American laws on firearms are right.
"We could lower our violent crime rates if more of the right people were allowed to carry guns.