The Scottish Parliament’s stated aim is to protect the people of Scotland from the problem of inappropriate and unsafe airgun use. With responsibility for air weapon legislation transferring from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish Government has now enacted the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015.
Until now most air weapons did not require a firearm certificate, but from 31 December 2016 it will be an offence to own or use an air weapon in Scotland without a proper certificate or permit (unless a person is exempt), punishable by a fine or up to two years in prison. This includes buying an air weapon, someone giving one to you or having an air weapon in your possession. The legislation also applies to visitors to Scotland who want to bring an air weapon into the country. Owners of air weapons will therefore need to decide whether to apply for a licence, sell the weapon, or hand it over to the police. Those wanting to surrender unwanted air weapons can do so at nominated police stations until 31 December.
Although the requirement to have a certificate comes into effect on 31 December, you will be able to apply for one from 1 July. With commentators suggesting that the process may prove a difficult administrative burden on Police Scotland, there are suggestions that applications should be submitted as soon as possible. Applications will be made online on the Police Scotland website in a similar manner to the current application process for a firearms and shotgun certificate.
If you already hold a firearms or shotgun licence you will not need to apply for a new licence until the existing one is due for renewal unless you want to purchase a new air weapon before that time. The cost will be £72 for a five year certificate. However, to spread the expiry dates, new certificates may last for a shorter period; the police will advise and the fee will be reduced proportionately. Young people aged between 14 and 17 can apply but they will need to re-apply for a full licence on their 18th birthday. Fees for young people will be reduced to reflect the shorter duration of the certificate.
Certificates will be granted if you meet certain criteria:
- you must be fit to be entrusted with an air weapon;
- you must not be prohibited from possessing firearms due to a previous conviction;
- you must have good reason to possess an air weapon;
- you must possess an air weapon without creating danger to public safety or the peace.
There is a wide range of good reasons to possess an air weapon, including pest control on a farm or other land, or target shooting at a club or a safe venue, or participating in competitions. It is also not the stated intention to ban ‘plinking’ provided it can be done safely and this will need to be decided on a case by case basis dependent on the arrangements in place.