Since we took office in May 2007, this administration has consistently urged the UK Government to review all firearms legislation, or to devolve responsibility for firearms to the Scottish Parliament. In particular, Ministers have pressed the UK Government to devolve responsibility for air weapons, in line with Recommendation 5.13 of the Calman Commission, which reported in June 2009. It is only now, with recently secured powers through the Scotland Act 2012, that the Scottish Government is able to legislate on air weapons.
I am keen to make Scotland Safer and Stronger, and the statistics published on firearms offences earlier this month show that we are making good progress. Recorded offences involving firearms in 2011-12 have fallen by 21 per cent compared to last year and are now at a 34 year low. Air weapons offences have fallen 17 per cent; 195 air weapons offences were recorded last year, compared to 234 in 2010-11. I believe that these continuing reductions are due to the hard work of the police and also the Scottish Government's award winning firearms campaign which ran in summer 2009 and highlighted the dangers of air weapons.
But we cannot be complacent. We do not intend to ban air weapons outright, but I do not think that it is appropriate in our modern Scotland that there can be up to half a million unregistered, uncontrolled and often forgotten firearms in circulation. Our aim is to ensure that only those people with a legitimate reason for owning and using an airgun should have access to them in the future, and that they are properly licensed and accounted for.
In preparing the options set out in this consultation paper I have been very grateful for the expert advice and recommendations made by the Scottish Firearms Consultative Panel. We have not always agreed on the issues, but their expertise, hard work and candour have been invaluable in putting this paper together.
I look forward to hearing your views as we address these historic recommendations.