Air gun owners will have six months to obtain certificates for their weapons before new laws come into force.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, today laid an Order in the Scottish Parliament which sets out the dates for the new air weapons licensing regime to take effect in Scotland.

Anybody who wants to use or own an air weapon, will be able to apply to Police Scotland for an air weapon certificate, or a permit in some circumstances, from 1 July 2016.

This gives users six months to get a certificate before new rules tightening access to air weapons, introduced in the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, come into effect from 31 December 2016. From that date it will be offence to have an air weapon without the proper certificate or permit, unless a person is exempt from the need for a licence. Anyone found guilty of committing an offence under the Act could face a fine or, in some cases, imprisonment of up to 2 years.

It is estimated there are currently around half a million unlicensed air weapons in Scotland.

Mr Matheson said:

“This Government has a long-standing commitment to eradicating gun crime in Scotland and this new legislation will better protect our communities by taking these potentially lethal weapons out of the hands of those who would misuse them.

“Every day police, the public and animal welfare groups have to face the results of air weapon misuse, from anti-social behaviour to horrific and deliberate injuries to wildlife, pets and very occasionally people.

“We are not banning air weapons outright, but ensuring that their use is properly regulated and users have a legitimate reason for them. We believe this legislation strikes the right balance between protecting communities and allowing legitimate shooting in a safe environment to continue.

“We will be publishing clear information on how air weapon owners can apply for a certificate or permit. I would encourage anybody with an air weapon to stay on the right side of the law by using the six months from 1 July to apply for the right to possess an air weapon.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams “Police Scotland fully supports the changes to air weapon legislation and in support of these developments will launch an air weapons surrender campaign later this year. This will allow people to hand in any unwanted air weapons before licensing takes effect.”

Detailed information on the application process will be set out in a new website, run by the Scottish Government.

Police Scotland will also be running a campaign before 1 July, to allow people to hand in any unwanted air weapons before licensing takes effect.

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