MORE than 80 children in Essex are authorised to use guns, shocking figures have revealed.

At the end of March, 81 children in Essex, aged under 18, held certificated granting them permission to use shotguns or firearms, according to Home Office data.

They were among 20,802 people in the area permitted to use the weapons.

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

Figures show 75 shotgun and two firearm certificates, granted by Essex Police, are held by teens between 14 and 17.

There are also six children under the age of 13 who hold shotgun licences in the area.

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However, the Gun Control Network said allowing children to use powerful weapons, such as shotgons, is "absurd", warning weapon security cannot be guaranteed with youngsters.

Meanwhile, The British Association of Shooting and Conservation says teaching children how to enjoy the benefits of responsible shooting is to be encouraged.

Peter Squires, from the UK Gun Control Network, said: "The fact that children can be licensees is a ridiculous anomaly, given that children could never be legally responsible in their own right for the safety and security of the weapon.

"GCN believe firmly that the privilege to own and use a firearm should be tied very closely to the responsibility for its use and security. This cannot be assured with children."

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

He added: “There are strict controls on young certificate holders who must be thoroughly vetted by the police.’’