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Guide to air weapon licensing in Scotland

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10. Air Weapon Clubs

The Scottish Government believes that air weapon clubs can offer a safe, organised environment where people can use their weapons for target shooting, train and learn from each other and engage in competitions, whether formal or informal.

There is already a network of air gun clubs around Scotland, some of which are associated with rifle clubs, miniature rifle clubs or muzzle-loading pistol clubs ("rifle clubs") approved by Ministers under the provisions of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, while some are stand-alone clubs in their own right. With the introduction of the new licensing regime, Scottish Ministers believe that the establishment of new clubs, or expansion of existing clubs, should be facilitated and encouraged wherever possible and appropriate.

Section 18 of the 2015 Act introduces the new class of approved air weapon clubs in Scotland. This allows a club to apply to the Chief Constable for approval of the club under a process broadly similar to the approval of rifle clubs. Application should be made on Form AWL6 as prescribed by the Air Weapons Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2016. A fee of £45.00 is payable on application and, if granted, the approval will last for 6 years as set out in section 20 of the 2015 Act.

Under the terms of section 18 of the 2015 Act, the Chief Constable must, when granting an approval, attach a number of mandatory conditions to the approval. He may attach further conditions relevant to the circumstances of the individual case. Under section 19 of the 2015 Act, the police may vary the club's approval at any time, by giving notice in writing. Alternatively, the club may apply to the police for a variation to the terms of the approval. Such variations may simply be to amend a name or address, or to change the types of shooting taking place at the club.

What is an approved club?

It is not necessary for a club to have approved status under the legislation. However, if an application is granted, members of that club can use or possess air weapons without holding a personal air weapon certificate (AWC) when engaged in target shooting at the club, another approved air weapon club, an event or competition, or in connection with such target shooting. A club member under 14 years of age must be supervised by another club member aged 21 years or over. This exemption from the general requirement to hold an AWC is set out at section 2(3) and paragraph 1 of schedule 1 to the 2015 Act.

While approved club status allows members to undertake target shooting activities without holding an individual AWC, the club should have at least one current certificate holder who will be responsible for the storage, safe-keeping and use of air weapons for club purposes.

Criteria for approval

Responsibility for approving an air weapon club rests with the Chief Constable of Police Scotland. The process for considering each application should broadly follow the procedures for rifle clubs, but should be proportionate to the relative power and lethality of the weapons to be used. In many cases the police will wish to visit a club's premises, whether it has a range or not to take a view of the safety and storage arrangements. There is no requirement for a full range inspection to be undertaken by, for example, the National Rifle Association or the National Small-bore Rifle Association, though clubs may decide to have such a check carried out as a matter of good practice from a health and safety standpoint.

The minimum criteria against which the police will assess the suitability of an air weapon club for approval are set out at Appendix 7 to this Guide.

Aligning with a rifle club

Under section 21 of the 2015 Act, where an air weapon club is already approved as a rifle club under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 and seeks approval under the 2015 Act, the club may request the approval under the 2015 Act is for a shorter period than 6 years so that it can be aligned to expire at the same time as the rifle club approval.

Similarly, where an air weapon club is already approved under the 2015 Act and seeks approval as a rifle club, the club may apply to have its air weapon club approval renewed so as to align with the period of the rifle club approval.

Power to enter and inspect club premises

Under section 22 of the 2015 Act the Chief Constable may, for the purposes of ascertaining compliance with the club approval and any conditions attached to it, authorise a constable or a member of police staff:

  • to enter any club premises of an approved air weapon club, and
  • to inspect those premises and anything on them which is relevant to the purposes for which the authorisation was granted

This power should be exercised at a reasonable time unless it appears to the police that the purpose of entry would be frustrated by doing so. Information which is stored in electronic form and accessible from the premises can be required to be produced in a form which is visible and legible.

It is an offence for a person to obstruct intentionally a constable or a member of police staff exercising their powers of entry.