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Thread: Air Weapon Licencing in Scotland

  1. #1

    Air Weapon Licencing in Scotland

    Well watching the news and this will be voted this afternoon by the SNP government. Most consultations don't believe it will make any difference and there is already plenty of law on the statute books to deal with misdemeanours. But SNP want it so SNP get it.

  2. #2
    The SNP make me laugh, Salmond wants democracy when it suits him quoting how the vast majority of Scots have backed the SNP when the truth is more 50/50 , the referendum result was to remain within the UK,so how does he claim the "Vast Majority" support the SNP?
    The SNP want full fiscal autonomy until its offered them, whilst still requiring the rest of the UK to prop them up with the Barnet formula and free prescriptions and the like.
    Then comes the argument about how staying in the corrupt EU and how the SNP seek to control that debate, so suddenly we are supposed to accept 1.25 million Jocks telling the rest of the UK what we can and cant do? UKIP got 4 million votes and 1 seat showing just how perverse the voting system really is, they got 56 seats, the best they can ever achieve would be 59 seats so fortunately for the rest of us they will never have the power to run the UK.
    Mind I suppose they are no worse than those running the rest of the UK, sadly they are no better either!

    The sooner we are out of the EU the better
    Last edited by Morgy; 25-06-2015 at 14:59.

  3. #3
    Just to report that yesterday the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill passed through the Scottish Parliament, and now awaits royal assent. That function has itself also been fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament, so the only announcement outstanding that matters now is the official Date of Commencement.

    I make no comment on the rights or wrongs of this legislation, as it is a matter for Scotland.

    It hasn’t been easy to follow this through the various stages as it was bundled up into a hybrid Bill with other measures covering licensing of booze, taxis, scrap metal dealers, theatres, and sexual entertainment venues.

    In the end the SNP and Labour MSP’s voted for it, with the Conservative & ‘Lib-Dem’ against so a decisive majority of over 5:1 in favour (92 - 17).

    I’ve picked out the main points from the AW&L section of the debate:-

    The Cabinet Secretary for Justice – Michael Matheson

    We have a long-standing commitment to reducing gun crime, and the licensing of air weapons is central to that aim. It featured in our 2007 and 2011 manifestos, and the power to regulate air weapons was finally devolved to this Parliament in the Scotland Act 2012. We have acted on that new power and consulted widely with experts and the public. Our proposals have not been universally welcomed, but we believe that they strike the right balance between respecting the interests of people who shoot legitimately—for work, sports, pest control or leisure—and the need to ensure that those who would misuse guns do not have access to them.

    Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) - Cons

    I appreciate the cabinet secretary verifying that the principal purpose is to reduce crime involving air weapons, but can he tell me what evidential back-up he has to suggest that the measure will reduce gun crime using air weapons, which is already at an almost record low?

    The Cabinet Secretary for Justice – Michael Matheson
    The member is correct to say that gun crime is at an almost record low. However, within the category of gun crime, almost half of all the offences involve air weapons. He may also have noticed from the most recently published statistics that, in the area where there was an increase in gun crime, the increase was due to the use of air weapons. Having a licensing regime will assist us to be more effective in ensuring that people who are not suitable to have such weapons do not have access to them. The bill does not ban air weapons in Scotland, but those who should not have access to firearms—including those who deliberately and maliciously target property, animals or other people—will no longer be allowed to have air weapons. That will better protect the public from suffering harm at the hands of those who misuse their guns. When publishing the committee’s stage 1 report, the committee’s convener, Kevin Stewart, said: “There is no doubt air weapons are dangerous … That is why we welcome plans to introduce a licensing regime … It is a timely and important piece of work.” I welcome and agree with his remarks and I am sure that the majority of members also agree with them and support the provisions.

    Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) - Cons
    However, the problem that we on the Conservative side of the chamber have—which will come as no surprise to members—is with part 1. It contains the new licensing provisions—they do not, please note, tighten up existing provisions—that relate to the new air weapons regime that the Government wishes to introduce. For us, that is a red-line issue that also involves an important point of democratic principle. We believe that part 1 should always have been a separate piece of legislation. During the stage 1 debate, Kevin Stewart intervened on me to ask what might be different in a separate bill that would lead me to support it. The answer to that is quite possibly nothing, but the point is that we could have had a clear debate and decision-making process on a completely new area of licensing provision while almost certainly unanimously agreeing on a separate bill that covered the provisions in parts 2 and 3 of this bill. We on the Conservative side of the chamber are forced into the position of being unable to support the bill despite agreeing very much with a large part of it. I will spend the brief time that is available to me explaining why we are so opposed to part 1. At stage 1, I raised a concern about the fact that the most recent statistics on air weapon offences, which should have been published in November 2014, would not be published until October this year—almost a year late. Lo and behold, the statistics have now been published, and they show that air weapon offences are at their second lowest level in the past decade. Such offences make up 0.06 per cent of all reported crime in Scotland, which is a drop of 73 per cent from their peak. Against that background, the possessors of the estimated 500,000 airguns in Scotland are to undergo a process to license them to possess airguns. That process is to be carried out by officers of Police Scotland, but not by the trained civilian specialist firearms officers, whose numbers are being reduced from 34 to 14 as we speak. Instead, it will be carried out by rank-and-file police officers with no previous experience of weaponry at all, whose training—I am reliably informed—consists largely of learning about the legislation involved, rather than any hands-on weaponry training that might help officers to prepare for the task that they will have to undertake. I am equally reliably informed that Police Scotland has a current backlog of more than 500 shotgun and firearms licence applications, so one can only begin to imagine what additional pressures the airgun licensing regime will place on it. Once a licence or permit has been gained, it will not be required to purchase the ammunition for those weapons. That could mean that those holders of airguns who do not bother or want to get a licence or permit—everybody agrees that there will be many of them—will have no difficulty in obtaining ammunition for their weapons. I suggest that those who are most likely to carry out airgun crimes are probably those least likely to bother to get a permit, especially one that costs around 80. I do not believe or accept that this new regime will have any impact on crime statistics whatsoever. I suggested earlier that amendments 1 and 2 would reduce bureaucracy, expense and the unnecessary use of human resources. Had they been accepted, I am sure they would have had that effect, but they were not. We are left with a bill that will create a whole new layer of bureaucracy and expense. It will take up countless hours of police officers' time to introduce a licensing regime that will do nothing to reduce the minute amount of crime that a minuscule number of airgun owners or possessors currently commit. As I said earlier, the bill seems a perfect example of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. That the sledgehammer is being wielded by a Scottish Government that preaches the gospel of cutting down on unnecessary red tape, expense and time wasting at every possible opportunity almost defies belief. We do not believe that this sledgehammer will crack the targeted nut; all it will do is place an unnecessary increased burden on thousands of perfectly law-abiding citizens, which is not something that Conservative members can support.

    Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) Lab
    The intention of people who support the bill has never been to ban air weapons; it has been to regulate them. Air weapons can and, sadly, do kill. It is wrong that anyone who wants to can keep and use a lethal weapon without any checks on why they have it and whether they can be relied on to use it responsibly and for a legitimate purpose. I am pleased that the bill will rectify that situation. Like other members, I was lobbied to exclude people who already hold a firearms licence. The bill excludes them from some but not all of the licence tests. That is correct because, although a person who has a firearm might be a suitable person also to have an airgun licence, they might not have a good reason for doing so and it is correct that the chief constable should be required to ascertain that they have a good reason for having an air weapon. I note the concern that the Law Society of Scotland raises in its stage 3 briefing that there are around 500,000 air weapons in Scotland that cannot be properly traced and that they might be sold off or given away in advance of the bill coming into force rather than being handed in to the police. Does the cabinet secretary have a strategy to try to encourage people to hand in their weapons rather than give them away and have them circulating illegally in Scotland? In that briefing, the Law Society also makes the point that the purchase of ammunition is not regulated and that there is no requirement in the bill to produce the weapons certificate when purchasing ammunition. I suspect that the purchase of ammunition might still be reserved—I think that it is only the licensing of air weapons that has been handed over to the Scottish Parliament—and therefore it is not possible for that to be addressed here. Perhaps it needs to be addressed at Westminster. The regulation of air weapons will protect people, domestic pets and wild animals. It is difficult to assess the numbers of wild animals that have been injured or killed by air weapons, as they might die in places where their carcasses will never be discovered. I was a bit concerned about an amendment that was agreed to at stage 2 that allows young people to use airguns for pest control. Originally, the bill had permitted only young people who were commercial pest controllers or employed by them to shoot pests. I accept that shooting can be a humane method of pest control in the right hands, but I am a bit concerned that, because of that stage 2 amendment, untrained young people—or, indeed, untrained adults—can use airguns to shoot live animals and, potentially, cause them significant suffering if they are not instantly dispatched. I seek the cabinet secretary’s reassurance on whether other legislation, such as the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, provides sufficient protection for wild animals that might be considered pests but are, after all, still sentient creatures and might suffer badly if untrained individuals take pot shots at them in the name of pest control.

    Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) – Lab
    I welcome many of the changes that the bill will bring about, although I think that there will, in due course, need to be a more fundamental revision of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. On airguns, I accept—as Alex Fergusson said—that the bill is not going to eliminate the problem totally. However, I believe that, as with firearms legislation, it will make a significant difference. It is right that it parallels firearms legislation, because the reality is that airguns cause a great deal of harm to people, pets and wild animals. It is therefore absolutely right to have a fit-and-proper-person test. People should have a reasonable and proper use for such weapons.

    Ken McIntosh (Eastwood) Lab

    If passed today, the bill will create a new offence relating to possessing, purchasing or acquiring an air weapon without holding a valid air weapons certificate. For those of us who remember the death of two-year-old Andrew Morton—some 10 years ago now—that law has been a long time in the waiting and it is all the more welcome for that wait. I recognise that gun licensing generally remains a divisive issue, and I am conscious that we should not subject the law-abiding air weapon owners of Scotland to what is sometimes regarded as the tyranny of the majority. However, in this case the bill is proportionate to the problem that we still face as a society. The casual cruelty often inflicted on domestic pets—cats and dogs—and even passing birds by irresponsible air gun users would be reason enough to introduce a more regulated form of ownership. The fact that last year half of all offences involving a firearm involved an air weapon is even more persuasive for me and my colleagues.

    Scottish Labour is very pleased to support the air weapons proposal.

    The Cabinet Secretary for Justice – Michael Matheson

    In my opening speech, I said that I believe that the provisions go a long way towards protecting the public, pets and wildlife from the painful and pointless tragedies that they are often subjected to, which are caused by the irresponsible use of things such as air weapons. Earlier this afternoon, before the debate, I met Sharon McMillan and her family and friends. She is the mother of Andrew Morton, who was tragically killed by an air weapon some 10 years ago. She and her husband Andy have campaigned tirelessly over the years for something to be done about the dangers of air weapons. I sincerely hope that the passage of the bill with Parliament’s support will reassure them that, through the bill, we are delivering progress and helping to ensure that nobody has to go through the same pain that they have had to go through as a family. [Applause.] During consideration of the bill, I have listened closely to concerns and issues that a range of stakeholders have raised. Issues were raised about the implementation and timing of the introduction of the provisions on licensing air weapons. Elaine Murray suggested having an information campaign so that individuals are aware of the regime’s implications for them. I assure her that work is already being done to ensure that we have a sufficiently robust and widespread information campaign. We intend to introduce some of the bill’s provisions in a way that allows the public and others who might hold an air weapon some time to decide whether to surrender that weapon or apply for a certificate for it. That will take a bit of time, but work is being taken forward to progress that. I know that Police Scotland, shooting organisations and other stakeholders will all be keen to look at how that is progressed and at how the guidance on the bill is developed. On a number of occasions, in interventions on me and in his speech, Alex Fergusson raised the issue of the evidence base for the bill. He also asked whether the bill is disproportionate to the risks that are out there. He referred to the most recent statistics on incidents involving firearms in Scotland. I welcome the fact that gun crime is at a lower level than it was in 2007, but that headline figure ignores the fact that the figures that were published just last week also show a rise in recorded offences involving firearms for the first time in seven years. Within that, offences involving air weapons are up by 6 per cent, which goes against the trend of shotguns and other forms of firearms. I do not believe that we can be complacent. As almost 50 per cent of all firearms incidents involve an air weapon, that gives us a good signal on the need to take proactive action to address the issue. If Alex Fergusson and his colleagues, including Liam McArthur, are not persuaded by me that the bill, in bringing in a licence for the provision of air weapons, will prevent crime, they have only to look at the evidence that was put to the committee at stage 1 by Police Scotland. It was clear in that that a licensing regime for the provision of air weapons will help to reduce crime that is associated with them and at the same time improve public safety. We cannot ignore that message. That is why we introduced the bill.

    I deeply regret the fact that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats cannot bring themselves to support the bill tonight. I think that they will come to regret that as well. Members have raised the issue of resourcing in Police Scotland. Police Scotland told the committee that it is taking forward a range of work to prepare for the introduction of the licensing regime. It is reviewing its licensing of firearms to make sure that that is integrated in a single force rather than being done in different component parts, as happened with the different forces in the past. Alex Fergusson raised issues about delays. There are periods when there are delays because of a spike in applications but, in general, there is no overall delay in dealing with firearms certificates in Scotland. In individual cases, inquiries might need to be made, which result in delays. I do not believe that a small number of incidents—more than 180 last year—is insignificant. It is not insignificant when they harm or maim an individual or an animal. We should not dismiss that as insignificant in the way that I think Alex Fergusson did this afternoon.
    Last edited by Sinistral; 26-06-2015 at 15:33.
    If I'm going to be accused of it then it's just as well I did it.

  4. #4
    They'd save more lives by banning drink ................. but that would lose them votes wouldn't it.

  5. #5
    there are some truly stupid politicians. An 'air weapon' can kill.... so must be licensed as anyone can purchase and use one. So then, knives, bows, cars, golf clubs and even the mighty rubber dildo..... if you've seen lock stock they're lethal

  6. #6
    It may well be interesting to look back in a few years' time and see exactly what impact upon airgun misuse this Bill will have....

    I shoot air rifles myself, and abhor any instance of misuse, however it does seem a stretch of credibility that the introduction of a licensing scheme that attracts a fee will bring about the attentions of the type of ne'er-do-wells that may shoot at cats, blackbirds and children, and cause them to think that they ought to apply for a licence.

    Perhaps it won't be an administrative nightmare, with huge delays, frustration and angst amongst the law-abiding user, a potential knock-on impact upon renewals for 'mainstream' SGC's and FAC's in the face of reduced resources...? Perhaps. Let's see in that review in a year or two eh?

    "It is wrong that anyone who wants to can keep and use a lethal weapon without any checks on why they have it and whether they can be relied on to use it responsibly and for a legitimate purpose" (Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) Lab). I wonder if Elaine Murray has any kitchen knives?

    I'm not trying to be flippant, and certainly not trying to be dismissive of the effect that any episode of airgun misuse could have upon the individuals directly affected - air rifles are not "popguns", "toys" or "only suitable for bouncing tin cans around", they can, and unfortunately on occasion, do, inflict damage on things that they shouldn't - but this Bill could be perceived as a wreckingball approach to a nut, with inconvenience for those individuals possibly least likely to use them inappropriately and the potential for nil actual impact upon those who would. But why utilise an approach based upon rigorous application of existing legislation to deal with offenders when you could instead introduce a whole heap of bureaucracy that may deter some individuals from taking up shooting as an enjoyable and legitimate pastime?
    Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch

    "...Nicely just doesn't cut the cheese....." A new twist on management-speak courtesy of a colleague.

  7. #7
    Yep. There's some ulterior motive to all this and the well being of Scotland and the Scottish isn't it. Could just be some folk want to be "the powers that be", could just be they have little person syndrome and want to bring down Westminster. Who knows, only time will tell.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul at Fechan View Post
    there are some truly stupid politicians. An 'air weapon' can kill.... so must be licensed as anyone can purchase and use one. So then, knives, bows, cars, golf clubs and even the mighty rubber dildo..... if you've seen lock stock they're lethal

    stupidest thing is that you have an open boarder to a country that does not require a licence to buy

    Unless the next part of the plan is the Barbed wire fences and Machinegun towers with boarder force searches

    and I suspect the Scottish legs of the UKHFT and BFTA airgun comps will be even less attended due to the PITA to get a visitors ticket

  9. #9
    From what I heard the next part of the plan is to see how it goes in Scotland before they introduce a similar act in England and Wales. Westminister used exactly the same ploy with the Poll tax.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Blitzking View Post
    Westminister used exactly the same ploy with the Poll tax.
    My understanding is that's not quite correct. Westminster was mulling over the Poll Tax at the same time that the Scottish rates system was away to be completely overhauled, at some expense. To save on the cost of a rebanding of properties for rates the Scottish Conservatives volunteered to have the Poll Tax a year early. The end result was the same - to consign Conservatism in Scotland to a minority - but I have read that it is a myth that Thatcher "tried it out on Scotland first as an experiment".
    That's not much to do with air rifle licensing, sorry for the sidetrack. The original SNP proposals were the main reason I looked more seriously into getting a FAC a few years ago (if I had to get a license anyway I was as well getting it for a centre-fire instead of just an air rifle) so Kenny MacKaskill is why I'm on this site at all. Thanks, Kenny.
    I dare say that no extra resources will be allocated for the new license system. FEO delays will just increase now.

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