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Proposals for Licensing Air Weapons in Scotland

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Legitimate Use

23. Ministers have made it clear that they do not wish to ban air weapons outright or to affect the rights of "legitimate users", but there is a clear policy imperative to restrict the casual and unnecessary ownership and use of potentially lethal weapons in Scotland. There is no "right to bear arms" in modern Scotland. For those weapons which are needed we should seek to implement proper, proportionate controls over them.

24. Given this, the Scottish Government has been exploring with advisers and members of the Consultative Panel the options for setting out a "good reason" test in the proposed legislation. Typically, "good reasons" to possess an air weapon might include uses such as pest control, target shooting or firearms collecting. This does not seek to be an exclusive list. The legislation could be supported by indicative or statutory guidance to chief officers of police as to the issues they should consider when deciding on an application for an air weapons certificate. Much of this guidance will already be familiar to licensing officers and to legitimate shooters within the existing firearms regime.

25. The Scottish Government believes that standard conditions relating to possession, use, security and transfers of ownership of air weapons should be set out in legislation and guidance. The application of further, specific conditions would be a matter for the police to consider on a case by case basis. While some members of the Consultative Panel considered that this is appropriate, others noted that specific conditions cannot be applied to shotgun certificates under the current legislation.

26. Whilst accepting the point made about shotguns, the Scottish Government takes the view that there is room to improve on the existing legislation and changes may be made to procedures and requirements in future. We consider there are sound reasons for allowing the possibility of specific conditions in certain circumstances. It is therefore proposed that the legislation should include provisions allowing the police to include specific conditions that are unique to the circumstances of individual applicants, where this is appropriate.

Question 4: Are there other forms of air weapon use which should be considered as "legitimate"?

"Plinking"

27. The issue of air weapon owners shooting targets in, for example, back gardens – so-called "plinking" – is a particularly difficult one for the Scottish Government. This has been a common pastime for many shooters in Scotland and a number of Panel members, and other correspondents, have argued that it offers an "entry level" for young shooters who go on to take up the sport on a regular and more organised basis.

28. While this may well be the case, the practice of target shooting in urban or built up areas concerns Ministers, the media and the general public. Apart from immediate public safety concerns, the visibility and ease of access to a weapon in such an environment can lead to alarm or to misuse. While Ministers are very aware of the history of such domestic and hobby shooting, the Scottish Government has a wider responsibility for the safety and reassurance of the public. The sight of guns in residential areas is no longer acceptable.

29. Ministers therefore believe that the unrestricted practice of "plinking" should come to an end. Shooting should only take place on land that is suitable, provides a safe shooting environment and does not pose a risk to the public, and ideally at licensed target shooting clubs, where new shooters can learn the sport in a disciplined and supportive environment

30. On this last point, some Panel members have argued that there is not a proper or sufficient network of clubs available in Scotland. This may simply be because such a network has not been necessary until now. Introduction to and training in other dangerous sports, however, must be undertaken at appropriate venues and with suitable arrangements in place. Ministers believe that the same position should apply in the case of air weapons.

Question 5: Do you agree that greater restrictions should be placed on where air weapon owners can shoot?