Police Scotland hail air weapon law 'success'

Image caption Thousands of weapons were handed in during a three-week amnesty ahead of the new laws coming into force

A law requiring all owners of air weapons to hold a licence has now been in force for six months.

Police Scotland said they believed the implementation of the legislation had been a "success", with 21,000 weapons surrendered by owners.

About 15,000 people have applied for licences.

The new law, which came into force on 1 January, followed a number of high-profile incidents involving legally-held airguns.

In 2005, two-year-old Andrew Morton was killed in Glasgow after being shot in the head with an airgun by 27-year-old Mark Bonini.

Bonini was found guilty of the toddler's murder and Andrew's death sparked calls for a crackdown on air weapons.

Image copyright Police handout
Image caption Two-year-old Andrew Morton died after being hit on the head by airgun pellet in Easterhouse, Glasgow, in 2005

Ch Supt Barry McEwan told BBC Scotland he was "pleased with the success" of the air weapons project.

"Members of the public embraced the legislation right away," he said.

"They understood the danger that air weapons can bring to our communities in Scotland and 21,000 plus have handed their weapons in and we have destroyed them.

"What we have also had, since then, is almost up to 15,000 people have applied for certificates of air weapons in Scotland.

"Our communities have felt enabled and felt this is the right thing to do."

MSPs passed legislation in 2015 which required air weapon owners to hold a licence.

The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 makes it a criminal offence to have an air weapon without a licence or permit and could see perpetrators fined or face up to two years in prison.

Most airgun owners who applied for licences have had them granted, although up to 2,000 applications are still being processed.

All of these were made late, after the law changed at the start of the year.

A licence lasts for five years and someone who already holds a firearms or shotgun licence is automatically covered for an airgun until that licence expires.

As a result, the exact number of air weapons in Scotland will not be known until 2021.

About 50 people have been charged with possessing air weapons without a licence.

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