Children of 12 will be able to use guns in Northern Ireland after a change to the firearms laws.
Under new rules, children will have supervised access to firearms four years sooner than present legislation dictates.
The BBC reports that the Northern Ireland Firearms Dealers and Shooters Association and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation told the Northern Ireland Justice Committee that they favoured the lower age.
It is thought the change will enable children to use guns under the supervision of an adult aged over 21 who had at least three years' experience in firearms working in a controlled environment such as a gun club.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Justice confirmed that Justice Minister David Ford had given the go-ahead for lowering the age limit, saying: "Following public consultation and having considered the view of the chief constable, Justice Minister David Ford has decided that the age at which a young person may have supervised access to air guns or shotguns will be reduced to 12 years of age.
"This will require further consideration of the detail to ensure appropriate supervision by a suitably experienced adult."
Stewart Dickson, Alliance, a member of Stormont's justice committee, said he would not be challenging the justice minister's decision, but admitted he felt 'nervous' about the ruling.
"I think that the arguments have been put to the committee by the various gun organisations," he told the BBC."Use by 12 years olds would be in extremely supervised circumstances, those are the assurances we have received."
"I do have concerns for the safety of children and I am concerned that any change in the gun laws is exceptionally well managed," he added.
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