12. Air Weapons Transactions
Sections 24 and 25 of the 2015 Act set out various restrictions on transactions involving air weapons in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has, as far as possible, sought to avoid imposing any significant new burdens on registered firearms dealers (RFDs) and others involved in the manufacture, sale, transfer, repair or test of air weapons by way of trade or business.
Section 24(1) of the 2015 Act makes it clear that people involved in such transactions, by way of trade or business, must be an RFD. Under paragraph 2 of schedule 1 to the 2015 Act, RFDs and their employees are exempt from the general requirement to hold an air weapon certificate (AWC), whilst carrying on the business of the dealership. Existing law around RFDs, and the requirements on them regarding matters such as storage and security, etc are well established and already cover air weapons in many respects.
Sales and transfers of air weapons are regulated by section 24(2) of the 2015 Act. This requires the person selling or transferring the air weapon – whether they are an RFD or a private seller – to satisfy themselves that the person purchasing or acquiring the air weapon is entitled to do so, either because they are an RFD, hold an AWC or are otherwise exempt from the requirement to hold an AWC. Similar requirements are in place for people manufacturing, repairing or testing an air weapon for another person, under section 24(3) of the 2015 Act.
Section 24(2)(c) of the 2015 Act specifically allows an RFD to sell an air weapon to someone without requiring to see an AWC or evidence that an exemption applies, provided that the air weapon in question will be sent out of Great Britain, or to an RFD in England or Wales, without first coming into the possession of the purchaser. Where the purchaser is an individual (as opposed to, for example, a corporate body) the individual must be aged 18 or over for this provision to apply. For example, an overseas visitor to Scotland who does not hold a visitor permit allowing purchase might have an RFD export an air weapon directly to their home country.
Section 25 of the 2015 Act requires that commercial sales of air weapons are carried out face-to-face – this mirrors the requirements of section 32 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006. This applies to all sales by way of trade or business, except those between two RFDs, and to those where the sale is concluded outside Great Britain (for example mail order sales). This provides a reasonable level of control over commercial transactions, by ensuring that there are checks at the point of sale or transfer that the individual buyer holds a valid AWC or is otherwise entitled to purchase an air weapon without holding one.
Pawning of air weapons is not directly regulated by the 2015 Act. However, The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2017 was passed by the UK Parliament in March 2017. The Order amended section 3 of the Firearms Act 1968 by adding sections 3(7) and 3(8), which make it an offence for a pawnbroker in Scotland to take an air weapon in pawn. This puts air weapons onto the same footing as firearms and shotguns under section 3(6) of the 1968 Act.
In practice, pawnbrokers should not have been taking air weapons in pawn since the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 introduced changes to the 1968 Act. Those earlier changes made it an offence for anyone other than an RFD to sell or transfer an air weapon by way of trade or business.