HUNDREDS of guns, described as the ‘most dangerous’ types of civilian-owned firearms, are legally held in Cheshire.

New figures from the Home Office show that in 2019-20 there were 205 ‘section 1’ shotguns across the county – a two per cent rise on the year before.

Covered by firearm certificates, these are multi-shot weapons that contain a magazine holding more than two rounds.

According to the Gun Control Network, these are similar to those used in mass shootings around the world and are not part of shooting traditions.

“By virtue of their magazine capacities and rapid-fire potential they represent the most dangerous civilian-owned guns,” said Peter Squires, professor emeritus of criminology and public policy at the University of Brighton and member of the Gun Control Network.

"The fact that that they are few in number and little-used makes the case that they are manifestly not part of mainstream UK shooting traditions."

A total of 10,760 firearms were licensed in Cheshire in 2019-20 – three per cent more than the year before and a new record-high.

More than half of these were rifles, at 59 per cent, while 134 were handguns.

“Our licensing system is among the strictest in the world but is still open to all," said Bill Harriman, firearms director at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).

"BASC works continuously to see the right tone struck so that participants are not disadvantaged but public safety remains acceptable.”

The number of firearms permitted by police forces throughout England and Wales rose to a record 605,000 last year, of which 'section 1' shotguns made up three per cent.

The statistics do not include the more common ‘section 2’ shotguns, which are licensed separately under shotgun certificates.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world.

“Before anyone receives a firearms certificate, the police must be satisfied that the person is fit to possess one and they have powers to revoke certificates if there is a risk to public safety.”