Air gun licence plan for Scotland 'draconian'

Airguns Ministers plan to introduce a new licensing scheme for air weapons

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An overwhelming majority of those who responded to a Scottish government consultation on licensing air weapons oppose the plan.

Under the proposed new scheme, anyone wanting to own an air gun would need to demonstrate they had a legitimate reason for doing so.

A total 87% of respondents rejected the idea - with some describing it as "draconian" and "heavy-handed".

A small number of people felt ministers were not going far enough.

The Scottish government has committed to licensing air guns but was looking for views on how this would work in practice.

The proposals will affect anyone who currently owns an air weapon and wants to continue to do so, those buying new air weapons, or those who wish to bring an air weapon into Scotland, for example for competitions or on holiday.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill launched a consultation on the issue last December.

Personal experiences

The paper was issued directly to 112 organisations, including community safety organisations, campaign groups of various types, wildlife and animal welfare organisations, field and country sports organisations and organisations involved in the rural economy.

The consultation was also sent to Scottish MEPs, other individuals and was available on the Scottish government website.

There were 1,101 responses to the consultation, with more than half coming from outside Scotland.

Start Quote

"It is important that we consider all views as we continue to develop a system of licensing that is fair, proportionate and practicable for police and shooters alike”

End Quote Kenny MacAskill MSP Justice Secretary

Those who were opposed to air weapon licensing in principle described the proposals as, among other things, "misconceived", "disproportionate", "draconian" and "heavy-handed".

They gave a wide range of reasons for rejecting the measures including claiming they were unlikely to be effective, were not supported by evidence and that the cost of implementation would be prohibitive and disproportionate to the likely benefits.

Those who were in favour of licensing, a total of 6%, often made a general comment that the proposals set out in the consultation document were "long overdue".

Some cited personal experiences of having been shot with an air weapon, having their livestock shot at, and witnessing the shooting of birds or having to deal with an injured and distressed animal which had been shot.

There were some calls for stricter regulation of air weapons, up to and including a full ban.

The campaign to tighten air gun controls gathered momentum after the death of toddler Andrew Morton in Glasgow in 2005, who was shot in the head by a drug addict.

Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill said: "It is no surprise that the consultation into this issue has attracted a significant number of responses expressing strong feelings from both sides of the debate, and I am grateful that people have taken the time to give their opinions on the proposals.

"We have always been clear that licensing will happen and this has been a valuable exercise in highlighting issues and drawing out concerns around our suggested changes.

"It is important that we now consider all views submitted as we continue to develop a system of licensing that is fair, proportionate and practicable for police and shooters alike."

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