Air gun owners will need licence in Scotland
Air gun owners will need a licence under plans announced by the Scottish government.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill launched a consultation on how the new licensing regime for air weapons will work.
Powers to legislate on air weapons were devolved to Holyrood under the Scotland Act 2012.
It is estimated that up to half a million air guns in Scotland would need a licence under the proposals.
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.
Under the new scheme, anyone wanting to own an air gun would need to demonstrate they had a legitimate reason for doing so.
The consultation 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 to competitions or on holiday.
Detailed proposals on offences and penalties will be announced in the future.
Prior to the new law coming into effect, people will be able to hand unwanted guns to the police.
Areas where people will be asked for their views in the consultation will include the types of air weapon to be covered by the new regime, legitimate reasons for possession of an air weapon and timescales for the introduction of the new licensing system.
They will also be consulted on a licence fee to cover administration and other costs, and offences and penalties for anyone breaching the new law.
Mr MacAskill said the consultation would seek views on how to make the new licensing regime workable, proportionate and how to help the police tackle inappropriate ownership and use of air weapons.
He added: "We have a longstanding commitment to crack down on the misuse of guns and a licensing scheme for air guns will help address the problems that these weapons can cause to individuals and communities in the wrong hands. Too much misery and harm has been caused.
"We are not banning air weapons outright but there has to be a legitimate use for them. We do not believe that there should be half a million unlicensed firearms in 21st Century Scotland.
"We are not consulting on the principle of licensing - this will happen. While our primary concern is for public safety, we do not wish to penalise those who use air weapons responsibly and who can demonstrate a legitimate use for a gun, such as sport shooting or pest control."
Mr MacAskill said the licensing regime for air weapons represented "an important first step towards devolving all powers on firearms to the Scottish Parliament, something I will continue to lobby the UK government for".
New statistics on firearms offences published earlier this month showed a drop from 647 in 2010-11 to 514 in 2011-12. Of these, 195 involved air weapons.