Defining an Air Weapon
16. The question of how to define an air weapon for the purposes of the licensing regime is a difficult one. Although the capability of a firearm to inflict a lethal injury is not strictly defined in law, the definition provided by Moore v Gooderham 1960 is generally accepted: "if it is capable of causing more than trifling and trivial injury when misused then it is a weapon which is capable of causing injury from which death may occur". Only a court, however, can provide a definite ruling on how trivial an injury may be.
17. For an air weapon (including CO2 powered items) to be covered by the proposed legislation it would need to fall within the definition of a firearm, i.e.:
"A lethal barrelled weapon of any description..." (Section 57, Firearms Act 1968) - but not be sufficiently powerful to be deemed "specially dangerous" under the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons)(Scotland) Rules 1969.'
18. The Panel considered that the new legislation should as far as possible adopt the existing, widely recognised technical and legislative definitions for air weapons. In general terms this would mean adopting the industry recognised definition of an air weapon as one which is capable of producing a kinetic energy between 0.7 foot pounds (1 joule) and 6 ft/lbs in the case of an air pistol, or 12 foot pounds in the case of an air weapon other than an air pistol.
19. At the lower end of the scale, throughout the UK any barrelled weapon producing a 'muzzle energy' below 1 joule (approximately 0.7 ft/lbs) is considered to lack the capability to cause more than a trivial injury and should not therefore be classified as a firearm. This limit can be blurred, however, by items that are capable of discharging darts which due to their nature are capable of penetrating a vulnerable part of the body at lower velocities and energies.
20. In general terms we do not propose to legislate for, or include, very low powered air weapons, "BB guns" or paintball or Airsoft guns within the new regime. Under normal use such weapons are unlikely to prove lethal or pose any significant threat. In line with current practice, provided paintball guns are limited to registered, insured clubs further licensing should not be required. The misuse of paintball guns, i.e. through the firing of non-standard ammunition is already illegal under existing legislation.
21. High powered air weapons are defined by the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969 or the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) (Scotland) Rules 1969. The Rules provide that any air weapon is "specially dangerous" if it is capable of discharging a missile so that the missile has, on being discharged from the muzzle of the weapon, kinetic energy in excess, in the case of an air pistol, of 6 foot lbs or, in the case of an air weapon other than an air pistol, 12 foot pounds. These are covered under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 and will continue to be so. The Scotland Act did not devolve responsibility for these weapons which are considered to be "specially dangerous", as defined by the Home Secretary.
Question 1: Do you agree with the proposed types of weapons to be covered by the new regime?
Question 2: Should any other weapons be covered?
22. We do not propose that the licensing regime should cover ammunition. Pellets and other ammunition for air weapons are relatively cheap and may be purchased in large quantities. Attempting to regulate this is neither practicable nor effective.
Question 3: Is there any type of air weapon ammunition which should be covered?