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Scotland passes airgun bill despite big drop in airgun crime

The new legislation will take effect next April, even though figures show airguns account for a tiny percentage of crime

airgun bill

The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill was passed last week, despite newly published Government figures showing a 73 per cent drop in Scottish airgun crime since 2006-2007.

Anyone who owns an airgun could unwittingly be committing a criminal act should they fail to obtain a licence after April next year.

BASC Scottish Committee chairman Alan Balfour commented: “It is bitterly disappointing that the Scottish Government has seen fit to bring in this new law in the face of all the evidence against it.”

The new airgun bill for licensing is unnecessary

The Recorded Crime and Offences Involving Firearms in Scotland for 2013-14 statistics, released last month following pressure from BASC (News, 29 April), support its argument that airgun licensing is unnecessary.

As BASC has repeatedly stated, the figures show that airgun crime is at its second lowest in the 10-year period between 2004-2014.

Overall, airgun offences account for just 0.06 per cent of crimes committed in Scotland. This is a 73 per cent reduction from the 2006-2007 period when offences peaked at 0.2 per cent of the total, which in itself was still a minor proportion of overall crime.

Licensing will do nothing to cut crime

BASC believes that licensing will do nothing to cut crime or improve public safety and said that the Scottish Parliament’s support of airgun licensing will see them commit a “significant and totally disproportionate amount of police time to the administration of tens of thousands of licence applications”.

BASC director Scotland Dr Colin Shedden said: “This new legislation will only affect and inconvenience law-abiding airgun shooters who will now have to apply for an air weapon certificate. Those intent on criminal activity will not come forward.

“To put this in context, airguns account for just 11 out of 51,869 (0.02 per cent) crimes of vandalism, eight out of 1,499 (0.5 per cent) robberies and 182 out of 273,053 (0.06 per cent) crimes in Scotland. There are an estimated 500,000 airguns in Scotland — only a handful are used in criminal actions.”

Scottish airgun bill under fire

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The debate proceeded without these confirmed figures, until the third and final stage of the Scottish Parliamentary considerations on Thursday, 25 June.

Now approved, airgun licences will become a legal requirement for users in Scotland, though BASC has managed to fight for some amendments, such as allowing 14-17-year-olds to have an airgun for the purposes of sporting shooting and pest control.

Furthermore, BASC says that there are “serious concerns” over the ability of Police Scotland to take on further licensing responsibilities when the number of firearms enquiry officers is set to be reduced from 34 to just 14 countrywide and applications for firearms licences are already facing delays of up to nine months.