Home Office gun law vow

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THE Home Office today pledged to examine raising the minimum age of air gun use and tightening restrictions following a series of incidents in the Capital.

The Government for the first time confirmed that it will seriously consider Edinburgh MP Mark Lazarowicz’s demand for the weapons to be licensed and registered in a move which the campaigning Labour backbencher described as a "major step forward".

The Edinburgh North and Leith MP has called for the legal age for unsupervised use of air guns and pistols to be raised from 14 to 17.

And he wants ministers to consider a similar licensing scheme for the potentially deadly weapons as already exists for rifles and guns.

Home Office firearms Minister Bob Ainsworth admitted that officials would "explore with the police the practicalities and benefits of changes to the age and ownership of air weapons and the registration of ownership".

Firearms legislation is a reserved matter to Westminster.

Welcoming the pledge, Mr Lazarowicz said: "This is the first time the Government has said in black and white that it is to look at increasing the age for ownership and use of air weapons and that it is ready to consider a licensing and registration scheme as with other firearms.

"In the past Mr Ainsworth has said some warm words. But this is confirmation in cold print that we are making progress. It is a major step forward.

"I am delighted with this answer and I thank the Evening News for their support in this campaign. I now hope to see a successful result to tackle the air weapons menace."'

Mr Lazarowicz took up the issue after a series of air gun incidents, involving injuries in Edinburgh.

Earlier this month, Lothian and Borders Police launched an air weapon and replica firearms amnesty in a big to avoid such incidents.

More 20 weapons have been handed in to local police stations including air rifles, air pistols, imitation handguns and shotguns.

Thousands of air pellets have also been surrendered.

Lothian and Borders Police have also revealed there is at least one firearms incident in the region daily.

Throughout the force area, officers recovered 77 air weapons and air pistols between January and May from incidents including vandalism, assault and breach of the peace.

Until the latest written answer, Mr Ainsworth had previously always maintained there was no compelling reason to change the law but it would be kept under review.

But yesterday he significantly shifted his position.

Mr Ainsworth - the Junior Home Office Minister with responsibility for firearms - said: "The Government are determined to tackle the misuse of air weapons and welcomes the Firearms Consultative Committee’s views on how the problem might be dealt with.

"In taking forward their recommendations for better education on safe air weapons use and enforcement of existing law, the possible use of anti-social behaviour orders will also be explored.

"We will also explore with the police the practicalities and benefits of changes to the age of ownership of air weapons and registration of ownership."

Mr Lazarowicz added: "This is splendid news.

"I shall now keep up the pressure on Mr Ainsworth to get the result we need."