Airgun owners given six months to licence weapons
New legislation which will tighten access to airguns will come into force at the end of the year, the Scottish government has announced.
It will be a criminal offence to have an air weapon without a licence or permit from 31 December 2016.
Under the new legislation approved by Holyrood last June, anyone found guilty of the new offence could be fined or face up to two years in prison.
Owners will have six months to licence their weapons before the law changes.
They will be able to apply to Police Scotland for an air weapon certificate from 1 July.
However critics have raised concerns that it may prove an administrative challenge for the force.
It is estimated that there are about 500,000 unlicensed air weapons in Scotland.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) opposed the introduction of the new laws, claiming they were 'disproportionate' and that airgun offences were declining.
A spokesman said: "However, with the legislation now in place, and licences to be made available from July, we will do all that we can to help the many legitimate air weapon users in Scotland adapt to the new licensing regime.
"The six months 'lead in' period (before a certificate becomes a legal requirement) is shorter than we had anticipated and may present a challenge to Police Scotland staff, who will administer the new regime."
Police Scotland will also operate a "surrender" campaign, during which people can hand in unwanted weapons before the new legislation comes into force.
The Scottish government pledged to introduce the licensing scheme following the death of Glasgow toddler Andrew Morton, who was killed by an airgun in 2005.
The two-year-old died after being hit on the head with an airgun pellet near his home in the Easterhouse area of the city on 2 March.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "This government has a long-standing commitment to eradicating gun crime in Scotland and this new legislation will better protect our communities by taking these potentially lethal weapons out of the hands of those who would misuse them."
He added that police, animal welfare groups and members of the public had to face the results of air weapon misuse ever day. He said air weapons caused anti-social behaviour, as well as injuries to wildlife, pets and occasionally people.
"We are not banning air weapons outright, but ensuring that their use is properly regulated and users have a legitimate reason for them," he said.
Police Scotland's assistant chief constable Mark Williams said the force "fully supports" the legislation changes.
People who already hold existing firearms or shotgun licences will not require a new certificate until their existing one is due for renewal.