The Countryside Alliance (CA) says that Scottish airgun licensing is becoming a “farce” and has opposed fresh calls for licensing to be adopted in the rest of the UK.
The comments were made by CA head of shooting Liam Stokes following a debate about the use of airguns by under-18s that took place in Parliament earlier this month.
The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill was passed in July 2015, making it illegal to possess an airgun without a licence in Scotland after 31 December this year. Its introduction was criticised as disproportionate due to the huge drop in Scottish airgun crime in recent years and the tiny percentage of crimes in which they are involved.
Since the bill was passed, the Scottish Government has faced further criticism due to the changing date of licence introduction, an “inadequate” campaign to raise awareness about the new law and an “utterly premature” airgun amnesty.
Descending into farce
Mr Stokes commented: “The licensing regime for airguns that the Scottish Government is currently pursuing is descending into farce. Worries continue to grow regarding Police Scotland’s ability to process licences on time, the lack of licence applications submitted to date and the potential boost to the black market in airguns. This is not an example to follow.”
Nevertheless, Mr Stokes welcomed the “well-balanced” half-hour Parliamentary debate, which was led by Labour MP David Hanson, who wished to highlight the potential danger of airguns, and one specific fatal accident that occurred in his constituency.
Responding on behalf of the Government, policing minister Brandon Lewis agreed that every effort should be made to reduce accidents, but also highlighted the importance of maintaining access to airguns for people who enjoy shooting and need firearms for predator and pest control.