From 31 December 2016 it will be a criminal offence in Scotland to own certain air weapons without a licence or permit. Those looking to apply for a licence must do so by 31 October 2016.

In June 2015 the Scottish Parliament passed the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 (the “Act”). In a move to limit air weapon misuse and to reduce the number of accidents involving air weapons, the Act introduces a new system of licensing for low-powered air weapons in Scotland. An air weapons licence will now be required for any person to possess, use, purchase or acquire an air weapon in Scotland (unless they are subject to certain exemptions).

The Scottish Parliament only has the right to legislate on some types of weapons, the rest being reserved to Westminster. The definition of “air weapon” under the Act covers all air weapons with a muzzle energy exceeding 1 joule, but not those already requiring to be held on a firearms certificate under the Firearms Act 1968 (for example, air rifles with a muzzle energy exceeding 16.27 joules).

The Act provides for specific exclusions from the licensing regime, including:

  • air weapons which are not firearms within the meaning of section 57(1) of the Firearms Act 1968. This excludes any air weapon which is not “a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged”; and
  • air weapons designed for use only under water, such as spear guns.

The Scottish Government’s guidance to Police Scotland on the new regime (available here) sets out that weapons such as paintball guns and BB guns are unlikely to fall within the regime. However, owners are advised to carefully consider factors such as the power of the particular gun owned; the type of ammunition used and the intended use for the gun, and seek specific advice from Police Scotland in the event of any doubt.

Am I exempt?

Schedule 1 of the Act lists a number of exemptions to the requirement to have an air weapons licence. These include:

  • people using air weapons at or in connection with an approved air weapon club;
  • registered firearms dealers and their employees;
  • artistic performers engaged in a theatrical performance/rehearsal, or in a cinema, television or similar production;
  • members of an approved cadet corps; and
  • people using air weapons at recreational shooting facilities.

A full list of the exemptions can be found here.

I’m not exempt – what do I need to do?

Those individuals who wish to keep their air weapons will need to apply for a licence under the new scheme by completing Form AWL1. Guidance on how to complete the application is available at

An application will only be granted where the Police Service of Scotland considers that the applicant:

  • is fit to be entrusted with a weapon;
  • is not prohibited from possessing an air weapon or other firearm under section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968;
  • has a good reason for using, possessing, purchasing or acquiring an air weapon; and
  • in all the circumstances, can be permitted to possess an air weapon without danger to the public safety or to the peace.

Good reasons may include sporting purposes, vermin and pest control or target shooting (on private land or at an approved air weapon club).

Alternatively, should you wish to dispose of an unwanted air weapon before the new legislation comes into force, you may do so under Police Scotland’s Air Weapons Surrender Scheme at any time before 31 December.