Over 2,000 airguns handed to police in first week of amnesty

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams shows some of the 2,301 weapons which have been surrendered. Picture: SWNS

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams shows some of the 2,301 weapons which have been surrendered. Picture: SWNS

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More than 2,000 weapons have been handed to police in the first week of a national airgun amnesty.

Police Scotland launched its surrender scheme last Monday following the introduction of new legislation requiring holders to have an ownership certificate.

I had the opportunity to meet with Police Scotland staff last week and see some of the weapons that have been taken off our streets. It is extremely encouraging to know that so many air weapons have been handed in

Michael Matheson

The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act, which will come into force on 31 December, was designed to tighten up the law surrounding airguns following a number of high-profile incidents.

Police Scotland yesterday welcomed the public’s response to the amnesty after 2,301 weapons were given up in the first week of the three-week campaign.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: “This is a fantastic start to the campaign.

“It’s great to see so many weapons being handed in and I’d like to thank responsible members of the public for surrendering them.

“Remember there is still two weeks left to run and I’d like to appeal to anyone who possesses an air weapon and doesn’t intend licensing it to hand it in to one of the designated 72 stations across Scotland.

“You can find out all you need to know about the surrender campaign on our website.”

The new airgun licensing process opens for business on 1 July, and anyone intending to keep their weapon must apply to the police.

It is thought there could be around 500,000 airguns in Scotland. Calls for stricter controls on the weapons gained momentum following the death of toddler Andrew Morton in Glasgow in 2005.

Mark Bonini, 28, was sentenced to at least 13 years in prison after fatally wounding the boy with an air rifle pellet.

The High Court in Glasgow heard the toddler was hit in the head as he was being carried in the arms of an older brother and died two days later in ­hospital.

Bonini had earlier shot at a fire engine, a girl and a street lamp from the bedroom of his first floor flat.

Under the new legislation, anyone found guilty of committing an offence faces a fine or, in some cases, imprisonment of up to two years.

The new law broadly follows the principles and practices of existing firearms legislation.

It allows a fit person to obtain a licence to own, possess and shoot an air weapon in a regulated way, without compromising public safety.

The law does not distinguish between different firing mechanisms, but will not cover weapons that are “essentially toys”, such as BB guns.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “I had the opportunity to meet with Police Scotland staff last week and see some of the weapons that have been taken off our streets. It is extremely encouraging to know that so many air weapons have been handed in.

“I would encourage anybody with an air weapon to stay on the right side of the law by handing them in during the surrender process or, if they wish to keep them, making sure they apply from 1 July 2016 for the right to own an air weapon.”

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents to a 2013 Scottish Government consultation on the licensing scheme were opposed, with some describing it as “draconian”.

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