Hopes of city airgun ban shot down by trouble with the law

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A BAN on airguns in Edinburgh is set to be ruled out by council chiefs after they decided it would lead to "legal, political and practical difficulties".

Last year, former Labour councillor Trevor Davies proposed outlawing the weapons by introducing a special bylaw in the city.

However, the council's director of corporate services, Jim Inch, today said that discussions with civil servants and the police led to concerns about the idea – mainly over how it would be enforced when airguns would still be on sale in neighbouring local authority areas.

Councillors were today expected to drop the plans, and may instead now concentrate on a publicity campaign in city schools.

The Scottish SPCA said it backed calls for tighter rules on the use of airguns but agreed that national legislation was better than a local bylaw.

Were the council to pursue its ban, it would need the backing of the Westminster Government, rather than Scottish Ministers.

Mr Inch said: "Justice department officials expressed the view that it would be inappropriate to have separate firearms laws in Scotland or indeed among individual local authority bylaws within Scotland.

"Considering the fact that firearms legislation is a matter reserved to Westminster and that recent legislation from the Parliament has recently been enacted, it is most unlikely that a City of Edinburgh promoted bylaw seeking to ban the sale and use of airguns in the city would have any prospect of being confirmed.

"Even if such a bylaw were to be enacted, Lothian and Borders Police are clearly sceptical about the enforcement of a bylaw within the city, particularly when no such similar bylaw exists in neighbouring authorities covered by the police force."

Mr Inch also said a local ban was unlikely to prevent people getting hold of an airgun illegally.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has written to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, proposing that Scotland should pilot a licensing scheme on behalf of the UK to restrict airguns to those involved in pest control or shooting clubs.

There have been repeated calls for action in recent years, particularly after a 46 per cent rise was reported in airgun-related crime in Lothian and Borders over the last six years.

Former MSP Tommy Sheridan launched a bid for a Scotland-wide ban, supported by the family of Graeme Baxter, from East Calder, who died instantly when he was shot through the heart in 2006.

Doreen Graham, a spokeswoman for the Scottish SPCA, said there was also a problem with airgun attacks on animals.

"A local (ban] would go someway towards helping, but it would be easier to tackle this nationally," she said."

These are weapons – not toys."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Justice Secretary has made clear that he believes it is time for the comprehensive review of our firearms controls and laws. We will continue to press the UK Government to either act or devolve the powers to let the Scottish Government act."

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