Parent and youth groups have condemned a shooting group for offering shotgun and air rifle lessons to eight-year-olds.

The groups yesterday labelled the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) “irresponsible” and called for the sessions to be scrapped.

The Young Shots event is being held in Plumpton, near Lewes, on July 26.

It includes shotgun and air rifle lessons between 9am and 4.40pm with accredited coaches.

The day is aimed at young people between eight and 17 who want to get into shooting.

Fredi Nwaka, from the Fathers Together group, which runs a Fathers Against Guns campaign, said: “I think it is absolutely ridiculous and should be called off. Children are extremely impressionable and this group needs to very careful what they promote.

“Guns are extremely powerful and a lot of adults get a huge rush from firing them. That’s why many will go to ranges.

“But children are not fully developed and getting them into guns at that age is a recipe for disaster.”

Chrissie Hall, from the Infer Trust anti-firearms group, said: “It is potentially very dangerous because they are normalising and glorifying the use of guns.

“Eight-year-olds can’t go and watch films which depict gun violence but they can get hold of a deadly weapon and shoot things – it just doesn’t seem right.”

A spokeswoman for Mothers Against Murder and Aggression said: “Playing with guns is not something that eight-year-olds should be doing. I can think of hundreds of other activities they could do instead between 9am and 4.40pm.”

However, a BASC spokeswoman said that the event would teach children how to use weapons safely and correctly.

They added that guns are an “essential tool of the countryside” and are used for pest control, game shooting and in competitions such as the Olympics.

She added: “These events provide a number of enjoyable opportunities for young people to learn and build on the basics.

“In teaching young people how to use guns properly, we are also instilling in them discipline and responsibility.”

The event, which costs £20, will also include gun dog and foxhound demon- strations, fly casting tuition and falconry.

Sussex Police said that they had no problems with the event being held as long as the organisers had “safety in mind”.