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Guide to air weapon licensing in Scotland

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9. Air Weapon Permits

There is a limited range of circumstances where a person may need to possess or otherwise deal with air weapons on a temporary basis without being a certificate holder. In line with existing firearms legislation, the 2015 Act makes provision for such circumstances, by enabling the grant of temporary permits for specific circumstances.

Police Permits

The Chief Constable of Police Scotland may, under section 12 of the 2015 Act, grant a Police Permit to an individual:

  • to possess or acquire an air weapon without holding an air weapon certificate; or
  • to sell (or expose for sale) an air weapon in the course of that individual's business.

These permits may be issued in circumstances when it would not be appropriate to issue a full air weapon certificate, or to register a person as a firearms dealer under the 1968 Act. The rationale for issuing such a permit would be to authorise the temporary possession of an air weapon by an individual such as a relative or the executor of a deceased person, or the trustee in sequestration (i.e. bankruptcy) proceedings to dispose of any air weapons held to the benefit of that estate, or the creditors, as the case may be. It may also be appropriate to issue a permit to allow a person some time to dispose of an air weapon if a certificate is not to be renewed.

In addition, permits issued to auctioneers would allow them to sell an air weapon without being a registered firearms dealer.

Application should be made using Form AWL2 as prescribed in the 2016 Regulations and the police should complete routine firearms licensing checks to ensure suitability of the applicant. The permit should only be granted if the Chief Constable is satisfied that it would not present a danger to public safety or the peace to do so.

A police permit will allow a person to possess or acquire an air weapon without holding an air weapon certificate. It should not in any circumstances allow use of an air weapon or the purchase of further weapons.

The Chief Constable has the power under sections 15 and 16 of the 2015 Act to attach conditions to the permit and to vary, by a notice to the holder, any condition so attached. The holder may be required to produce the permit to the police within 21 days, beginning with the date on which the notice is given, in order that the permit may be varied.

The police may also, by notice, revoke a Police Permit, giving at least 7 days' notice to the holder and requiring the surrender of the permit and any air weapons held.

Visitor Permits

Sections 13 and 14 of the 2015 Act make provision for temporary Visitor Permits for those who wish to come to Scotland to shoot air weapons, whether they be their own or those borrowed or hired while in the country. Such certificates will be time limited and will last no longer than 12 months.

Application should be made in advance of the visit using Form AWL3 prescribed in the 2016 Regulations. The police should undertake the necessary routine firearms licensing checks to ensure suitability of the applicant and the permit should only be granted if the Chief Constable is satisfied that it would not present a danger to public safety or the peace to do so, and that the visitor is not prohibited from possessing firearms. In addition, the Chief Constable may only grant the permit if satisfied that the person has good reason for using, possessing, purchasing or acquiring air weapons while in the country. Visitors aged 14 or more but under the age of 18 years however may not purchase, accept a gift of or own an air weapon, and are subject to specific conditions regarding the use of air weapons.

The approach to be taken by the police should be a simple, pragmatic regime of checks which are transparent to those coming to Scotland, while providing appropriate reassurance as to the suitability of a person to have access to air weapons. Evidence that the applicant holds a firearms or shotgun certificate granted under the 1968 Act, or a European Firearms Pass can provide strong support for the grant of a temporary permit to visitors.

Visitor Permits will normally only be valid for the duration of the particular visit, in line with the application made. However, if the applicant intends to make regular visits over a short time then a permit may be issued to cover these dates. No visitor permit may last for longer than 12 months.

Persons who visit Scotland regularly over a longer period and wish to use air weapons, for example in order to carry out their business or to take part in competitions, may elect to apply for a full Air Weapon Certificate under section 3 of the 2015 Act, rather than for a temporary permit.

Each visitor permit will be granted along with a number of mandatory conditions, though the Chief Constable may attach additional conditions (see Appendix 5).

The Chief Constable has the power to vary, by a notice to the holder, any condition of the permit. The holder must produce the permit to police within 21 days, beginning with the date on which the notice is given, in order that the permit may be amended. Failure to do so in this way would be grounds for the permit to be revoked.

Group visitor permits

A person may apply for visitor permits on behalf of a group of up to 20 people – for example, a school or club. In the case of groups, any or all individuals may be granted, or refused, a permit to use and possess air weapons. The decision not to grant to one or more individual(s) in the group, detracts in no way from those persons who meet the qualifying criteria and are granted a permit. A group application does not permit the purchase or acquisition of air weapons.

Event Permits

Section 17 of the 2015 Act provides for an event permit. Where an organiser seeks to hold an event where air weapons will be used by attendees, an application can be made to the Chief Constable for the grant of an Event Permit to authorise those attending to borrow, hire, use and possess air weapons while engaging in the actual event activity without holding an air weapon certificate.

The intention is that people attending organised events, for example a fair or local gala, pony club tetrathlon or bicycle biathlon, may compete without necessarily requiring an air weapon certificate. Application can be made by the organiser, or a person otherwise responsible for the event, using Form AWL5 as prescribed in the 2016 Regulations. The application should give full details of the event, the types of uses for air weapons, the land on which shooting will take place, etc. In many cases, the police may already be aware of the event taking place, but they will wish to carry out the necessary routine firearms licensing checks to ensure that appropriate safety is in place for the event, and that the applicant is a fit person to take responsibility for the use of air weapons.

As with other permits, the Chief Constable may attach conditions to the Event Permit if it is granted. Failure to comply with any conditions attached is an offence on the part of the organiser as the responsibility ultimately rests with them.

Individuals attending an authorised event will not require an air weapon certificate, taking advantage of one of the exemptions set out in schedule 1 to the 2015 Act. If granted, the permit (or a copy of it) must be displayed prominently at the event so as to be capable of being read by any person attending the event. It is an offence for the organiser to fail to comply with this requirement without reasonable excuse.