Change of heart on selling gun magazines to children
Britain's biggest newsagent appears to be relaxing age restrictions on the sale of shooting magazines to children after pressure from countryside campaigners.
A row erupted last month when it emerged WH Smith was refusing to sell shooting titles to under-14s, even though they can legally hold a shotgun licence below that age.
Country sports enthusiasts responded by launching a lobbying campaign. Members of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) have been visiting stores, e-mailing the company and lobbying via social media while an online petition has attracted 12,000 signatures.
The association said it now appeared that WH Smith was "removing age restrictions" although the retailer had refused to confirm it had dispensed with "till prompts" for staff to check the buyer's age.
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BASC chief executive John Swift said: "WH Smith has been unable to produce a convincing argument as to why some shooting titles were not being sold to under-14s.
"Their stated reasons included reference to free gifts given away with magazines, which we understand happens only very rarely and has not included any age-restricted items. WH Smith also said the till prompts have been in place for six years, but have recently been given more prominence after a series of refresher training courses.
"Shooting magazines contain many articles about safety, best practice, conservation and rural life and are a valuable resource for any young person starting out in shooting."
News of WH Smith's policy prompted a furious reaction last month, with countryside campaigners describing it as "ignorant and ridiculous".
A spokesman said: "We have a till prompt system in place that encompasses a small number of these titles which has been in place for many years and has never previously generated any complaints or challenges from customers.
"This system was introduced due to certain 'cover mounts' on a selected number of magazines. These till prompts do not however affect the majority of the shooting titles that we currently sell.
"As with all such matters, we are in constant discussion with the magazine publishers to ensure we are selling in a way that is in line with regulatory guidelines, conforms to best practice and takes account of the views expressed by all of our customers."