Sporting Shooters Association proposal to lower minor age

How old should someone be before they have their first alcoholic drink? Or drive a car for that matter, or vote, or have sex?

How old is old enough for a young person to look down the barrel of a loaded gun?

The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia – backed by the New South Wales branch of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party – believe that someone as young as 10 is old enough to do just that.

The proposal is almost certain to spark a lively discussion regardless of what side of the gun debate fence you sit on.

According to the Firearms Act 1996, a person under the age of 18 in Tasmania must not possess or use a firearm unless they are the holder of a minors permit.

To hold one of these permits, the person must be at least 12 years old, and the firearm must be used under supervision and on an approved gun range.

Those aged 14 to 17 may apply for a permit that allows them to use a firearm in the field and on a gun range.

Already, the New South Wales government has come out against the association’s proposal, while Tasmanian Labor Leader Rebecca White and Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor were quick to dismiss the idea.

Lobby group Gun Control Australia would also like to see minor permits abolished, believing that smarter regulation is the key.

Some would argue that lowering the age at which a minor can obtain a licence, at the extreme, would incite gun violence such as that witnessed in US school massacres.

Others argue that early education and training around gun procedures would make for more responsible gun owners (including teenagers), who are aware of the dangers of guns and the consequences if not used properly.

Those who do apply for a firearms licence have to attend relevant training with a registered provider within six months of receiving their approval letter before they can receive their licence.

With its expansive rural landscape, there is no doubt that Tasmanian children living on the land are already being taught at a young age how to respectfully and responsibly use a firearm.

Regardless, the topic of firearms and gun safety should not be avoided – it is integral to the debate – and children should be as informed as possible.

The question is what is an appropriate age to be behind the trigger of a loaded gun?