Introduction and Background
1. The Scottish Government is seeking views on ways to regulate air weapons. Principally, we want to protect the people of Scotland from the problem of inappropriate and unsafe airgun use. The SNP Manifesto for the 2011 Scottish Parliament election stated:
"We welcome proposals in the Scotland Bill to devolve competence for air weapons to the Scottish Parliament which should be used to create a licensing regime for all airguns so that only those with legitimate reason, such as sport or pest control, will be able to own an airgun. We hope that this is a first step leading to the devolution of responsibility for all firearms legislation. With complete powers we could replace the current confusing array of firearms laws with a single all-encompassing Act to provide clarity for the police and improve public safety".
2. Current firearms legislation is reserved to the UK Parliament. The Firearms Act 1968 has been amended and extended over 40 years and it is confusing, difficult to enforce and to understand. There is a need to start again – to produce an unambiguous, modern and enforceable system that protects the people of Scotland. The Scottish Government has argued for complete devolution of the firearms legislation, not just air weapons, and has been pressing the Home Office regularly for the powers to address firearms issues in Scotland properly.
3. The Calman Commission recommended that powers on air weapons be devolved to Scotland and this was taken forward through the Scotland Act 2012 at Westminster.
4. The Scotland Act received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012, giving the power to legislate on air weapons to the Scottish Parliament. Section 10 of the Scotland Act includes provision to devolve responsibility for most air weapons. In advance of this devolution of powers we established the Scottish Firearms Consultative Panel. The Panel has examined the practicalities of licensing air weapons and has advised on the development and implementation of a new licensing regime.
Scottish Government proposals
5. Our intention has never been to have a "blanket ban" of air weapons. There are legitimate reasons to possess an air weapon and, whilst our primary concern is for public safety, we do not wish to penalise those who use air weapons responsibly. We aim to introduce a system of licensing and regulation which recognises the need to protect and reassure the public, but which is proportionate, transparent and practicable for regulators and users alike.
Who would the proposed changes apply to?
6. Anyone who owns, or wishes to own an air weapon would be required to apply for an air weapon certificate.
What is included in this consultation?
7. This paper will highlight the Scottish Government's current thinking and will ask questions as and when appropriate. Although there will be specific questions where we are seeking responses, more general comments are welcomed.
8. The main topics on which we seek comments are:
- the types of air weapon to be covered by the new regime;
- legitimate reasons for possession of an air weapon;
- where shooting with air weapons should take place;
- the application process for air weapon certificates;
- age limits for air weapon use;
- a fee to cover licensing administration and other costs;
- visitor permits;
- a possible lead-in period to allow those who currently hold air weapons either to license them, or to hand them in to the police;
- offences and penalties; and
- communications strategy.
9. The overall aim of this paper is to explore and establish the main principles of the new licensing regime. Detailed arrangements such as the format of air weapons certificates, or the tariff of fees to be charged on applications will be the subject of further consideration and, in some cases, consultation.
Duration of Consultation
10. This consultation is for a period of 13 weeks, with responses due by Friday 15 March 2013. Responses must be accompanied by a completed Respondent Information Form (see Annex C) and should be sent to:
AirWeaponLicensing@Scotland.gsi.gov.uk, or Police Powers Unit
Safer Communities Directorate
1WR, St. Andrew's House