Cumberland Times-News

October 20, 2012

Magazines withheld from young shooters


Cumberland Times-News

— Country sports enthusiasts are furious at a decision by Britain’s biggest news agent to ban children from buying shooting magazines after a campaign by animal rights activists.

WH Smith says youngsters under 14 will not be sold shooting titles, even though it is legal to hold a shotgun licence below that age.

And even adult customers attempting to buy a magazine featuring shooting now face a humiliating alert as staff receive a till prompt to check the buyer’s age. The retailer based the policy on the qualifying age for a firearms certificate and says checks are already in place for a range of products, including scissors and adhesives “where an element of common sense” is required.

However, sports groups point out that there is no minimum age for holding a shotgun licence in Britain, although children below 18 cannot buy or own a gun themselves and under-14s must be supervised by an adult.

Countryside campaigners say the company has shown a complete lack of understanding of the law and may now feel the backlash of an angry countryside.

Alison Hawes, South West regional director of the Countryside Alliance, said the ban was “ignorant and ridiculous.”

“I hope they will realise they have made a big mistake and have a change of heart,” she added. “If word gets around, as is likely, then it may be that country people will no longer buy their magazines from WH Smith.

“They are now going to face the backlash of the countryside rather than a handful of animal rights activists.”

Earlier this year, Animal Aid, Britain’s largest animal rights organisation, published a report which claimed that the “lurid, pro-violence content” of country sports magazines could have a “corrosive, long-lasting effect on impressionable young minds.”

The report, “Gunning For Children: How the gun lobby recruits young blood,” argued that titles promoting guns should be put on the top shelf alongside pornography, and banned for sale to under-18s.

A spokesman for WH Smith said it did not wish to act as a censor, adding: “As part of our commitment to operate our business responsibly, we have a till prompt on shooting titles.

“WHSmith seeks to do its best to satisfy all of its customers who often have strongly opposing views. We aim to display all of our magazines in locations where they are accessible to those who want to buy them, but do not offend those who do not.

“The till prompt system has been in place for many years on a range of different products and this has not previously been an issue for customers.”

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation said it was a “knee-jerk reaction to an extremist campaign” which would hit 7,000 young members.

Spokesman Christopher Graffius added: “It is extraordinary that in WH Smith you can buy a car magazine at any age, despite the age limit of 17 for driving. They are also causing enormous offence to adult shooters who are stopped at auto-scan tills.”