Mother backs new airgun licence law passed by MSPs

The Bill's headline provision for a licensing regime for airguns fulfils a previous pledge by the SNP. Picture: PA
The Bill's headline provision for a licensing regime for airguns fulfils a previous pledge by the SNP. Picture: PA
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THE MOTHER of a toddler whose airgun death prompted a national campaign has spoken of her “delight” after MSPs passed new laws requiring owners to hold a licence.

Sharon McMillan’s two-year-old son Andrew Morton was killed ten years ago in Glasgow in a shooting which shocked the nation and marked the start of a drive for a crackdown.

The new legislation we’re proposing will better protect our communities by taking these potentially lethal weapons out of the hands of those who would misuse them.”

Scottish Government spokesman

The licensing regime stops short of the wider ban – the so-called Andrew’s Law – which the family had campaigned for.

But justice secretary Michael Matheson said it would prevent those who “deliberately and maliciously” target people, animals and property.

Ms McMillan said last night: “It’s been a long hard journey and it’s not been easy.

“I’m delighted. It’s a step in the right direction. I know it’s not an outright ban but it’s the next best thing to it.”

Ms McMillan said she would like to see the crackdown go further and said she did not understand the need for gun clubs to have them. “I don’t understand why anybody would want to use a gun in the first place, never mind go to a gun clubs,” she said.

The measures were part of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill which were passed at Holyrood last night.

It is estimated that there are currently around half a million unlicensed air weapons in Scotland. The new laws will define the air weapons which will be subject to licensing and follow the principles and practices of existing firearms legislation.

They will enable a fit person to obtain a licence to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon without compromising public safety.

Mr Matheson said: “Meeting the family of Andrew Morton brings home the tragic consequences that irresponsible attitudes towards air weapons can have.

“This government has a long-standing commitment to eradicate gun crime in Scotland. We lobbied the UK government for control over air weapon legislation and gained these powers in 2012.

“I am delighted that this legislation to tighten air weapon control has now been passed.

“Such tragic cases as the Morton family have had to endure are, thankfully, very rare, but every day police, the public and animal welfare groups have to face the results of air weapon misuse, ranging from anti-social behaviour to horrific and deliberate injuries to wildlife and pets.”

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said the priority was to “keep people safe”.

He added: “The vast majority of people who own air weapons in Scotland are law abiding citizens who conduct themselves in a responsible manner.

“There are, however, a small number of people who use air weapons either recklessly or with criminal intent. We welcome the introduction of this legislation which will provide greater control over air weapons in Scotland and will also help us keep people safe by reducing the number of them falling into the wrong hands.”

Labour backed the bill despite it being “far from ideal”, while the Tories and the Liberal Democrats said that, while they supported many parts of the legislation, they could not back measures relating to the licensing of air weapons.

Tory MSP Alex Fergusson, a farmer, said it would lead to more bureaucracy and expense and take up police time.

“This seems to me to be a perfect example of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” he said.

The licencing aspect of the bill will also clamp down on metal theft through a tighter licensing regime for scrap metal dealers, including new rules that will prevent cash payments

It will also create new offences of giving, or making available, alcohol to a child or young person for consumption in a public place. There will be a new licensing regime for lap dancing venues allowing greater local control over their number and operation

New civic licensing standards officers will also be created to help enforce civic licensing regimes.