Air weapons consultation launched

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Air weapons will need to be licensed under plans announced today.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill launched a consultation setting out proposals on how a new licensing regime for air weapons will work, using new powers devolved  in the Scotland Act 2012.

Announcing the plans during a visit to Lothian & Borders Police Headquarters, the Cabinet Secretary was shown the type of air guns which the new laws will cover.  All of these had been surrendered voluntarily to police.

It is estimated that there could be as many as half a million unlicensed air guns in Scotland.

The consultation will seek views on how to make the new licensing regime workable, proportionate and how to help the police tackle inappropriate ownership and use of airweapons. Areas we are asking for views on include:

  • the types of air weapon to be covered by the new regime
  • legitimate reasons for possession of an air weapon
  • competence or awareness of safety in handling air weapons
  • timescales for the introduction of the new systems
  • a licence fee to cover administration and other costs
  • offences and penalties

Mr MacAskill said:

“We have a longstanding commitment to crack down on the misuse of guns and a licensing scheme for air guns will help address the problems that these weapons can cause to individuals and communities in the wrong hands. Too much misery and harm has been caused.

“We are not banning air weapons outright but there has to be a legitimate use for them. We do not believe that there should be half a million unlicensed firearms in 21st century Scotland.

“We are not consulting on the principle of licensing – this will happen. While our primary concern is for public safety, we do not wish to penalise those who use air weapons responsibly and who can demonstrate a legitimate use for a gun, such as sport shooting or pest control.

“Our plans to introduce a licensing regime for air weapons represent an important first step towards devolving all powers on firearms to the Scottish Parliament, something I will continue to lobby the UK government for.

“I would encourage anyone with an interest in shooting or gun control to respond to the consultation.”

New statistics on firearms offences published earlier this month show the number of firearms offences recorded by Scotland’s police forces fell 21 per cent, from 647 in 2010-11 to 514 in 2011-12. This represents the lowest total recorded in Scotland in 34 years and marks a reduction of more than 50 per cent of 2006-07’s total of 1,260. While the overall number of air weapon offences dropped in 2011-12, we are committed to reducing the figure of 195 offences even further.

The proposals announced today were developed in consultation with the Scottish Firearms Consultative Panel, convened in November 2011.

The proposals will affect anyone who currently owns an air weapon and wants to continue to do so, those buying new air weapons, or those who wish to bring an air weapon into Scotland, for example to competitions or on holiday. Prior to the new laws coming into effect, we will allow a period where people can hand in unwanted guns to the police.

Detailed proposals on offences and penalties will be announced in the future.