THE Scottish Government today launched a hard-hitting new campaign on the dangers of airguns – using adverts in pub toilets and on internet gaming sites to hammer home the message.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who unveiled the adverts today, said he wanted to dispel any remaining myth that air weapons and replica guns can be treated as toys.
The campaign will highlight the risks of using such weapons, including injuring or killing a person or animal, or being challenged by police armed response units.
One of the ads uses an image of airguns forming prison bars to underline that reckless use can lead to a jail term of up to six months or a fine of up to 1000.
There are an estimated 500,000 air weapons in circulation in Scotland and there were 145 firearms offences involving airguns in Lothian and Borders last year.
The latest campaign follows the refusal by the Home Office to transfer powers over firearms legislation to the Scottish Government or allow Scotland to pilot a simple licensing system.
Mr MacAskill said: "The law around air and replica guns is too confusing and needs to be reformed. However, the Home Secretary refuses to either do this or devolve the powers so that the Scottish Government can.
"This campaign will help to educate people about the potential penalties and consequences of misusing these guns.
"It makes clear that air and replica guns are not toys and that there can be very few, if any, reasons to be out on the streets with them. It also spells out the potential for people who misuse them to be fined or even sent to prison."
He said the message to anyone who has an air or replica gun with no good reason was to get rid of it safely by handing it in to the police.
The internet and online in-game ads were due to go live today.
Adverts will soon start appearing in bus shelters and phone boxes around Scotland, with a focus on the areas with the greatest problem of airgun misuse.
Leaflets and posters are also being sent out to police for display in local communities.
The Scottish Government worked with other organisations, including the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Gun Control Network, the Scottish Target Shooting Federation and the SSPCA.