Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced plans to introduce licensing laws for air guns late last month.
The announcement follows from a consultation carried out by the Scottish Government in 2012 concerning the views of the public on air powered weapons.
As part of his research Mr MacAskill has met with two of the most prominent proponents for air gun regulation, Andrew Morton and Sharon McMillan. Both Morton and McMillan have been campaigning on the issue since their two-year-old son, Andrew Morton, was shot and killed with an air gun in 2005.
Mark Bonini, who admitted firing the shot that hit Andrew Morton, was convicted of murdering the child and ordered to serve at least 13 years in prison.
The legislation has been dubbed Andrew’s Law in his memory.
a person does not require a licence to own an air gun in Scotland
Despite being granted powers to determine air gun legislation as part of the Scotland Act, Holyrood has yet to introduce any formal regulation.
As it stands, a person does not require a licence to own an air gun in Scotland. It is estimated the total number of such weapons in Scotland stands at around half a million.
If the new Bill were to pass, anyone wanting to own an air gun would be required to demonstrate that they had a legitimate reason for doing so. Legitimate reasons are thought to include pest control, sport shooting and being a collector.
Alongside the licensing framework, the Bill would introduce new offences to punish those that choose not to conform. Both the use and acquisition of air guns without a license would be made illegal.
every day police and animal welfare groups have to deal with the results of air weapons being misused
Mr MacAskill spoke of meeting with the mother of Andrew Morton and the profound effect that it had shaping the Bill.
He said: “To see and hear the continued pain his family has gone through only serves to make me even more determined to ensure we have robust legislation to prevent future tragedies.
“Such tragic incidents are, thankfully, very rare, but every day police and animal welfare groups have to deal with the results of air weapons being misused.
“As well as causing daily anti-social behaviour and vandalism they can also cause horrific injuries to wildlife and family pets by those who maliciously target animals.”
Figures released by the government showed that offences involving firearms fell by a third over the past year. Of the 365 remaining offences, around half involved air guns. The proposed Bill is welcomed by police and victim groups.
“firearms offences are now at the lowest level since records began”
However, the legislation is not without its opponents. The consultation carried out in 2012 returned a landslide majority in opposition – 87% of respondents opposed the plan. Some went as far as describing the framework as “draconian”.
Dr Colin Shedden, director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, headed the criticism. He claimed, “firearms offences are now at the lowest level since records began. Airguns are already extensively regulated by law, with more than thirty offences on the statute books. Bringing in this legislation will not deter those who are already determined to break the law.”
As well as tightening restrictions on air guns, the Bill will also tackle other areas of licensing. This includes, strengthening licensing for scrap metal dealers in a bid to reduce metal left, a revision of alcohol provisions for pubs, clubs and retailers, and granting local authorities the power to determine the number of sexual entertainment venues in their area.
Full details of the act, dubbed the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill, are available on the Scottish Parliament’s website.
Anyone charged with such an offence should contact us immediately to ascertain how this would impact any prosecution. We have defended many people facing such charges and it is important to know the intricate details of the law relating to firearms.