Scotland politics

Air weapons licensing bill backed by Holyrood committee

Police recorded 171 offences involving airguns in 2012-13, the lowest total since comparable records began in 1980.

Plans to introduce a licensing regime for airguns have moved a step closer after winning the support of a Holyrood committee.

Kevin Stewart, convener of the local government and regeneration committee, said it was "timely and important".

An estimated 500,000 air guns are owned by people across Scotland.

The legislation was brought forward following the death of two-year old Andrew Morton, who was shot in the head by an airgun in Glasgow in 2005.

The Scottish Government's Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill would also target legislation at sexual entertainment venues (SEVs), such as lap-dancing bars.

MSPs on the committee have called on the Scottish government to consider if it would be feasible for air weapons to have "some form of identifier mark", which would link each weapon to its owner. It is hoped this would allow police to identify those responsible for crimes committed with the guns.

Mr Stewart said: "There is no doubt air weapons are dangerous.

"Recently, a rail worker and a firefighter were shot as they carried out their jobs and this kind of incident happens far too often."

He added: "That is why we welcome plans to introduce a licensing regime for air weapons. It is a timely and important piece of work.

"Misuse of these weapons must be addressed and the bill takes this objective a step closer."

Image caption Andrew Morton was shot in the head by an airgun in Glasgow in 2005

The committee has recommended there must be a "clear and comprehensive public information campaign" ahead of the introduction of a licensing regime.

The report on the bill stated: "Many people may only own an air weapon, and no other form of firearm, and therefore be unaware of the conditions for applying for and holding a firearms certificate.

"Therefore, we recommend the Scottish government should work closely with the shooting community, Police Scotland, and other key stakeholders to design and implement a comprehensive public information campaign.

"This should begin well in advance of the commencement of any certificate system to allow enough time for those who wish to lawfully dispose of any air weapons to do so."

In 2012/13, police recorded 171 offences involving airguns - the lowest total since comparable records began in 1980.

'Loophole'

The bill would also require a separate licensing regime for sexual entertainment venues in Scotland.

There are about 20 such establishments, mostly in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Under the current terms of the legislation, any venues putting on four or less events a year with sexual entertainment, would be exempt from having to hold a licence.

The committee raised concerns and suggested this was a "loophole" that organisers could use to "circumvent the licensing regime" by moving from venue to venue to avoid regulation.

The MSPs stated: "We believe all SEVs should be regulated to safeguard the performers and therefore we recommend the exemption provision should be removed from the bill."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish government believes the Air Weapons and Licensing Bill provides a reasonable, clear and consistent approach to licensing. We will respond to the committee's recommendations in due course."

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