Scots who own air weapons but have not yet applied for a licence must make special arrangements for their safekeeping ahead of new laws coming to effect on 31 December, a senior police officer has warned.
Mark Williams, assistant chief constable of Police Scotland, said unlicensed weapons must be stored with a registered firearms dealer or someone already with licence, until a licence is obtained.
Failure to obtain a licence could lead to a fine or imprisonment. Only applications to register weapons by 31 October will be processed in time for the deadline.
In 2015-16, an air weapon was the main firearm in nearly half of all offences involving a gun in Scotland.
It has been estimated that there could be half a million air guns in Scotland.
Assistant chief constable Williams said: “I would like to thank communities throughout Scotland for their support in relation to both the Air Weapon surrender campaign and the ongoing licensing process, where we have seen more than 18,000 unwanted air weapons surrendered to Police Scotland for secure destruction since the summer. Should you still have an unwanted air weapon, you can still hand it in.
“We have also received over 10,500 applications, however only those received before 1 November 2016, will be processed before the end of 2016.
“I would encourage anybody who hasn’t had their application processed by 31 December 2016, to avoid breaking the law by making alternative arrangements for their air weapon(s) to be with someone who already holds an air weapon or firearms licence, or lodging it with a registered firearms dealer, until they get their licence. If they are holding an air weapon without a licence after 31 December 2016, you may be breaking the law and risk prosecution.”
The move to tighten airgun controls and which led to the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, gathered pace after the death of two-year-old Andrew Morton who was shot in the head with an airgun pellet near his home in Glasgow, in 2005.
Michael Matheson, justice minister, said: “The new law coming into force is part of our long-standing commitment to eradicate gun crime in Scotland. We are not banning air weapons outright, but ensuring their use is properly regulated and users have a legitimate reason for them.
“We believe the new licence strikes the right balance between protecting communities and allowing legitimate use in a safe environment to continue.”