More than 100 children in Thames Valley are authorised to use guns, figures show.

At the end of March, 108 children aged under 18 in Thames Valley held certificates granting them permission to use shotguns or firearms, according to Home Office data.

They were among 26,395 people in the area permitted to use the weapons.

Keith Child, of the Bucks Boarderers Gun Club (BBGC) in Oxford, said they had two members under the age of 18 who are ‘supervised by adults all the time’.

He said: “Our gun laws are so brilliant in this country, unlike the Americans, we are so heavily inspected.

“I love our system because it really ensure that idiots cannot get hold of guns and the only idiots who get hold of guns in this country are people that steal them from others."

Mr Child emphasised that if someone gets a gun in an authorised way, including a child, they are ‘heavily vetted by the law’.

He also explained at BBGC their two youngsters with gun licenses shoot in different groups, so four or five adults can ensure ‘one child is supervised properly’.

The Gun Control Network, however, said allowing children to use powerful weapons, such as shotguns, is ‘absurd’ and warned that weapon security cannot be guaranteed with youngsters.

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."

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

Martin Parker, of the BASC, said current legislation benefits those in training for Olympic and Commonwealth shooting disciplines and those being taught pest control techniques.

He added: "Encouraging younger people to enjoy the benefits of responsible shooting, while teaching the principles of safety and self-discipline, is to be encouraged."

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

The figures show 101 shotgun and seven firearm certificates, granted by Thames Valley Police, are held by youngsters aged between 14 and 17 – some of whom could hold both types.

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

The law restricts children to the use of firearms for animal slaughter, sport, competition, target shooting and the shooting of vermin.

They cannot purchase their own weapons or ammunition but are entitled to possess some firearms from the age of 14.

Certificate holders under 15 are allowed to borrow shotguns for use under adult supervision but cannot be given a shotgun of their own until they reach 15.

Across England and Wales, 2,084 certificates were held by under-18s as of the end of March, with the youngest holder of a shotgun licence believed to be just seven.

That represents a drop from 2,770 in March 2020, while in Thames Valley, the number of children holding certificates also fell from 156 over the same period.

For anyone to obtain a firearm or shotgun certificate, the chief officer of their local police force must be satisfied that they have good reason to have a weapon, that they are fit to be entrusted with it and that public safety or peace would not be endangered.

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