Airgun law may be devolved to Scotland.
The Government has indicated that the control of airguns will be devolved to Scotland with the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that the findings of the Calman Commission will be implemented.
Shooting bodies are concerned that the Calman Review’s recommendation to devolve airgun law will be included in a Scotland Bill to be launched this Autumn.
A change in the law would affect the estimated 500,000 airgun owners in Scotland and potentially incur huge financial costs at a time when budgets are being restricted.
In line with other shooting organisations, BASC has expressed its opposition to the separation of power over the UK’s firearms laws and is seeking a meeting with policing minister Nick Herbert to clarify the Westminster Government’s position.
Dr Colin Shedden, BASC Scotland director, said: “BASC will continue to work to try to maintain firearms legislation as a reserved power.”
David Penn for the British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC) also expressed concern: “This council will continue to resist this unnecessary proposal and will be seeking meetings with the ministers concerned.”
If powers over airgun law are devolved, it is thought that Scottish ministers would move towards a ban on all unlicensed airguns.
The SNP promised to restrict airguns after the death of Andrew Morton in 2007 and restrictions have the backing of the Scottish Parliament.
In the event of airgun law being devolved, BASC Scotland will make the case to MSPs that airgun crime can be prevented through better enforcement of existing laws and points to falling figures for airgun offences in support of this argument.
Dr Shedden said: “Recent figures have shown that airgun crime in Scotland has fallen by 23% and that education and enforcement of existing legislation are the best ways to address any perceived problem.”
David Penn said the BSSC shared this view, adding: “The BSSC does not see the value of a licensing system that will incur huge unnecessary costs and be ignored by criminals.”
Ross Montague of the Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) predicted a tightening of the law on airguns in Scotland was inevitable but expressed optimism the Scottish Government would not place draconian restrictions on shooters: “The Scottish Government is on record as supporting shooting and we have no reason to suspect they would set out to place unworkable restrictions on shooters. The indications are that there would be a licensing regime for airguns and we aim to ensure this is as unrestrictive as possible.”
He went on to call for Scottish shooting organisations to consider the possibility of devolution of all firearms legislation to Scotland and to agree a united position: “The SCA is calling for a meeting of the relevant shooting and land management organisations to explore what the devolution of powers over airguns, or even all firearms, could mean.”
The prospect of the devolution of airgun law and resulting restrictions on airgun ownership in Scotland raises questions about the extent to which such moves would involve wider firearms legislation.
The Home Office has expressed concern over difficulties in separating airguns from other firearms in legal terms given the existence of firearms-rated airguns.
There is also the possibility that Holyrood would require powers to change UK firearms legislation were a law passed requiring all airguns to necessitate a firearms certificate.