On Li­cence

One year post-li­cens­ing for Scot­tish air­gun­ners

Airgun World - - Contents - – Russ Dou­glas re­flects

Russ Dou­glas re­views the Scot­tish airgun li­cens­ing laws, one year on

By the time you read this we’re a year on with the Scot­tish Airgun Li­cens­ing, and I be­lieve many of you will want an up­date from we cer­ti­fied air­gun­ners in deep­est Scot­land. I still refuse to call it the Scot­tish Air Weapon Li­cence; after all, by def­i­ni­tion from the Ox­ford English Dic­tionary, a weapon is ‘a thing de­signed or used for in­flict­ing bodily harm or phys­i­cal dam­age’. Al­ter­na­tively, (Dic­tionary. com) ‘any in­stru­ment or de­vice for use in at­tack or de­fence in com­bat, fight­ing, or war, as a sword, ri­fle, or can­non’, or ‘any­thing used against an op­po­nent, ad­ver­sary, or vic­tim’. Hence, the very terms cho­sen by the politi­cians vic­timise all we law-abid­ing sports­men and women, from the out­set.

Fur­ther­more, the leaflet we all re­ceived with our Jan­uary issue of Airgun World ex­plains that the Home Of­fice cat­e­gorises air­guns as ‘lethal bar­relled weapons’. Up here, it’s com­mon knowl­edge that the SNP are blink­ered in be­ing anti-gun, and this of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment clas­si­fi­ca­tion only gives them fur­ther am­mu­ni­tion – ex­cuse the ironic pun. More on un­li­censed lethal weapons later.


Aligned with the VCR (Vi­o­lent Crime Re­duc­tion) bill, the leg­is­la­tion was aimed at re­duc­ing the num­bers of air­guns il­le­git­i­mately held; i.e. by those who have no law-abid­ing use for them. I say ‘law-abid­ing’, be­cause that’s what 99.9% of us are, and ex­ist­ing firearms leg­is­la­tion cov­ers any of­fence com­mit­ted with an airgun. That’s right, your airgun might be sub-12 ft.lbs. (rifles) or sub-6 (pis­tols), but break any of the many ex­ist­ing laws con­cern­ing them or their use, and it’s al­ready classed as a firearms of­fence, with ap­pro­pri­ately heavy pun­ish­ments.


The one and only le­git­i­mate func­tion many of us (at GARC) have yet heard for the leg­is­la­tion, came to me sec­ond-hand from a po­lice source. Namely, if they raid a sus­pected drugs den or sim­i­lar, and find air­guns they can now seize and de­stroy them, thus re­mov­ing guns from cir­cu­la­tion that have no le­git­i­mate func­tion. After all, law­break­ers are un­likely to ap­ply for a li­cence, or even to have a le­git­i­mate use/lo­ca­tion to use them, even if they were to ap­ply for a li­cence. Also, the penal­ties for their pos­ses­sion might well out­weigh those for pos­ses­sion of the var­i­ous drugs also seized.

Speak to many gun­shop own­ers across Scot­land, as I have done, and they’ll tell you that the po­lice, on the whole, wanted noth­ing to do with the leg­is­la­tion from the start. They have nei­ther the man­power nor fund­ing to en­force the laws, with bud­get re­stric­tions tight­en­ing the belt across all pub­lic sec­tors.


Let’s face it, all we law-abid­ing and re­spon­si­ble air­gun­ners go out and ap­ply for a li­cence, pay­ing ex­tra cash for the priv­i­lege. Crim­i­nals ig­nore the leg­is­la­tion and con­tinue to break the law, and many, many or­di­nary oth­er­wise law-abid­ing cit­i­zens just bury their heads in the sand – and their air­guns deeper in the back of the wardrobe/shed/loft; delete as ap­pro­pri­ate – and don’t ap­ply for a li­cence, thereby crim­i­nal­is­ing them­selves. I think you’ll see that from the li­cens­ing stats that fol­low, bear­ing in mind the 500,000 air­guns

es­ti­mated to have been in cir­cu­la­tion be­fore 1st Jan­uary 2017.


I sub­mit­ted a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Re­quest (FOI) with six main ques­tions to Po­lice Scot­land on 20/10/17, want­ing to in­form you all of the story so far. I re­ceived the re­sults be­low within a month.

1. The es­ti­mated num­ber of air­guns/airgun own­ers in pri­vate pos­ses­sion prior to li­cens­ing?

‘As air weapons were not re­quired to be li­censed un­til the Air Weapon Li­cens­ing (Scot­land) Act 2015, there is no ac­cu­rate method of ac­count­ing for how many air­guns were in the pos­ses­sion of pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als.

The me­dia es­ti­mate pre-li­cens­ing was that ap­prox­i­mately 500,000 air­guns were in pri­vate hands in Scot­land, though this was a guessti­mate, with no way of know­ing what the ac­tual fig­ure was. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ uk-scot­land-38143327

2. The num­ber of air­guns handed in and dis­posed of prior to/post- li­cens­ing?

a) Pre-li­cens­ing This info wasn’t avail­able be­cause the costs to try to de­ter­mine it would be pro­hib­i­tive.

b) Post-li­cens­ing ‘Since the in­tro­duc­tion of the new leg­is­la­tion, 20,452 weapons were sur­ren­dered (up to 31 De­cem­ber 2016).’

3. The num­ber of airgun li­cence ap­pli­ca­tions re­ceived both prior to, and since 1st Jan­uary 2017?

‘In­clud­ing those cur­rently un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, the to­tal num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions re­ceived to date is 20,051.

19,671 ap­pli­ca­tions were sub­se­quently pro­cessed, bro­ken down as fol­lows:

01/07/2016 to 31/12/2016 is 6,507: 01/01/2017 to 30/10/2017 is 13,164.

380 ap­pli­ca­tions were not pro­gressed for a num­ber of rea­sons e.g. re­fused, re­turned or can­celled.’ 4. The num­ber of li­cence ap­pli­ca­tions granted and re­fused, both prior to and post-li­cens­ing, to date?

“Since the ap­pli­ca­tion process was in­tro­duced un­der the new leg­is­la­tion, there were 19,026 air weapon li­cence ap­pli­ca­tions granted and 195 re­fused.’

5. The num­ber of li­cence ap­pli­ca­tions cur­rently be­ing pro­cessed?

“At the time of writ­ing, there are 58 ap­pli­ca­tions be­ing pro­cessed, not in­clu­sive of re­newals.’

6. I’m also very in­ter­ested to know if there’s been any re­duc­tion in re­ported airgun of­fences in the last year from pre­vi­ous years, since li­cens­ing was in­tro­duced.

‘Your re­quest for in­for­ma­tion has now been con­sid­ered and I can ad­vise you that Po­lice Scot­land does not hold the re­quested in­for­ma­tion. There­fore, in terms of Sec­tion 17 of the Act, this let­ter rep­re­sents a for­mal no­tice that in­for­ma­tion is not held.

To ex­plain: Po­lice Scot­land do not record air weapon of­fences separately or in any man­ner by which this data can be col­lated. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment pub­lish data on firearm of­fences which cur­rently in­cludes the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year. http://www.gov.scot/ Pub­li­ca­tions/2016/11/6389/0

Po­lice Scot­land are cur­rently in the process of col­lat­ing data for 2016/17

which will be pub­lished by the end of the year’.

I’m still await­ing this.


As I ex­plained, crim­i­nals are un­likely to have ap­plied for li­cences, or handed in their air­guns, so no change there. Where air­guns have been taken out of the pos­ses­sion of law-abid­ing cit­i­zens, then I’d ar­gue we’re no safer ei­ther be­cause there should have been no dan­ger pre­sented any­way.

The bla­tant in­san­ity of the leg­is­la­tion is il­lus­trated by clamp­ing down upon sub-12ft. lbs. air­guns, but not cross­bows, for ex­am­ple, when all cross­bows are far more pow­er­ful, and of­ten only slightly less com­pact. A com­pound cross­bow avail­able from the ‘net for £110 can eas­ily be 175 ft.lbs! Hand-held cat­a­pults fir­ing steel balls are no less lethal, but again are not leg­is­lated against.


Once these are avail­able I’ll write a fol­low-up piece – watch this space.

In the ex­pe­ri­ence of some of my firearm-own­ing friends, even po­lice FAOs, dur­ing rou­tine in­spec­tions, can be ig­no­rant of the law re­gard­ing air­guns and airgun am­mu­ni­tion. When an FAO in­spects a firearm owner’s gun safe and asks them, “Do you have to keep your airgun ammo locked away too?” eye­brows are raised.

Speak­ing of which, airgun am­mu­ni­tion is not in­cluded in the leg­is­la­tion, so any­one who hasn’t both­ered to get a li­cence for their now il­le­gally-owned air­guns, can still buy pel­lets over the counter in the High Street, or over the In­ter­net, with­out re­stric­tion.

At least a few politi­cians pat them­selves on the back for pe­nal­is­ing law-abid­ing shoot­ers in the name of pub­lic safety, when many thou­sands of times more harm and suf­fer­ing is caused ev­ery year by al­co­hol abuse than was ever caused by airgun crime, for ex­am­ple.

My sug­ges­tion to my fel­low air­gun­ners in the rest of the UK is to lock away your guns in a se­cure, locked fil­ing cabinet, to help you to demon­strate re­spon­si­ble own­er­ship, and then hope com­mon sense pre­vails in West­min­ster. Yours frus­trat­edly, Russ. PS. I can’t help won­der­ing how many air­guns we Scot­tish li­cence hold­ers each pos­sess, and there­fore how many of the es­ti­mated 500,000 air­guns are still out there hid­den in cup­boards and lofts.

Fi­nal Re­sponse: Po­lice FOI re­quest p1/2. Fi­nal Re­sponse 2: Po­lice FOI re­quest p2/2.

Head torch and frosty ground – but still a lot of fun!

Tony has his li­cence, but how many do not?

The fun goes on de­spite the ef­forts against us.

The li­cence ap­plies to all types of airgun.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.