To help reduce air weapon misuse throughout Scotland, the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 has been introduced to bring in a licensing system that will help us to better protect Scottish communities. This system of licensing will seek to ensure only shooters who have good reason and do not pose a threat to public safety have access to air weapons.

From 31 December 2016, it will be an offence to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon in Scotland without holding an air weapon certificate. Persons who hold a current firearm or shotgun certificate that was granted within the United Kingdom prior to 31 December 2016, do not need to apply for a separate air weapon certificate until the expiry of the firearm or shotgun certificate (whatever expires later). This allows you to use and possess air weapons, BUT NOT purchase or acquire additional air weapons.

If you wish to purchase or acquire any additional air weapons after the 31 of December 2016, before doing so, you will require to obtain an air weapon certificate. You may apply for an air weapon certificate and arrange for it to expire at the same time as one firearm or shotgun (co-terminus) or both (tri-terminus) of your certificates for a fee for £5.


WHY IS IT CALLED AN AIR WEAPON, RATHER THAN AN AIR GUN OR AIR PISTOL?

The new Air Weapon and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 makes reference to the term weapon throughout. This follows the Firearms Act 1968, which provides the definition of an ‘air weapon’ and exemptions placed upon it.


WHAT AIR WEAPONS ARE COVERED BY THE NEW LEGISLATION?

Section 1 of the 2015 Act sets out the meaning of “air weapon” for the purposes of the licensing regime.

Any air weapon to be covered by the regime must first be a firearm within the meaning of section 57(1) of the 1968 Act: that is, it must be a lethal barrelled weapon from which a bullet, missile or other projectile can be fired.

In addition, only air weapons defined in section 1(3) (b) of the 1968 Act are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This does not include a weapon which has been declared specially dangerous by the Secretary of State.

Throughout this guidance, any reference to air weapon means “air rifle, air gun or air pistol”, as set out in section 1(3) (b) of the 1968 Act.

Against this background the definition of air weapons for the purposes of the 2015 Act covers all air weapons with a muzzle velocity exceeding 1 joule (0.74 ft/lbs), but not those required to be held on a firearms certificate under the 1968 Act i.e. air rifles with a muzzle velocity exceeding 12ft/lbs (16.3 joules) or 6ft/lbs (8.15 joules) for an air pistol.


DO COMPONENT PARTS OF AN AIR WEAPON FALL UNDER THE NEW LEGISLATION?

The component parts of an air weapon, and any accessory to such a weapons designed or adapted to diminish the noise caused by discharging the weapon, will fall within the remit of the new legislation and therefore, if held, will need to be certificated.

Although there is no statutory definition for the term component part, the Home Office Guidance states:

“The term “component part” may be held to include (i) The barrel, chamber, cylinder, (ii) Frame, body or receiver, (iii) Breech, block, bolt or mechanism for containing the charge at the rear of the chamber (iv) Any part of the firearm upon which the pressure caused by firing the weapon impinges directly. • Magazines, sights and furniture are not considered component parts”.


HOW CAN I FIND OUT HOW POWERFUL MY AIR WEAPON IS?

Muzzle energy is simply the energy of a projectile measured at the moment it is expelled from the muzzle of an air weapon. In order to calculate the power of an air weapon, you need to use a chronograph. A chronograph is an instrument used to measure the velocity of a projectile fired by a weapon.

To calculate the approximate muzzle energy, by using the chronograph, you can measure the speed of the pellet (in feet per second) when fired. You will also need to know the weight of the pellet in grains. Taking both these figures allows you to undertake the following calculation;

speed(ft/sec) multiplied by speed(ft/sec) multiplied by weight(grains) divided by 450240 = This gives you the result in foot pounds force (ftlb).

Many firearms dealers will have a chronograph but it would be advisable to contact them prior to attending to ascertain if a chronograph is available.

Police Scotland will not be able to test air weapons for you.


WHAT ANIMALS AM I PERMITTED TO SHOOT AT NOW?

There has been no change in law as to the animals (quarry) you are allowed to shoot with your air weapon. Many websites give specific advice as to the shooting of live quarry and it is recommended that you seek the advice of one of the shooting organisations, such as the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) or directly from Scottish National Heritage (SNH).

The onus will always remain on the shooter to safely fire using the correct weapon and ammunition in targeting quarry.

You can shoot mammal pests at any time provided you have the landowner’s permission. Many air rifles are suitable for rats, squirrels, rabbits and other small vermin.


CAN I STILL COLLECT AIR WEAPONS?

There is no intention in law to prevent someone legally and safely undertaking their hobby or pastime. Where the air weapon does fall under the legislation, there will be a requirement on the owner of the weapon to hold an air weapon certificate (or authorised as per the transitional arrangement in place for existing firearm or shotgun certificate holders) even if the air weapon is not to be fired. There will be an expectance on behalf of the police that the collection is ‘bona fide’ (real) and is held securely.

If the air weapons are never fired, the air weapon certificate may be conditioned to say that they can be held but that they cannot be fired.


CAN I CONTINUE TO SHOOT ON MY OWN LAND AT TARGETS?

“Plinking” is a term often used by those who use air weapons and refers to informal target shooting undertaken at standard or non-standard targets, such as cans and bottles, often in built-up areas. If undertaken in a confined space such as a domestic garden it is incumbent on the shooter to consider if this can be done safely with a suitable backstop to prevent over-shots or ricochets and to provide evidence of this in support of their application. The applicant should be able to demonstrate to the Chief Constable that shooting can be undertaken safely in such circumstances.

You must be aware that you could be committing a criminal offence if any air weapon pellet goes beyond your land, whether it is directly fired or an accidental ricochet.

Shooting in areas to which the public have unrestricted access, or in communal gardens or similar areas is not acceptable.

The determination of safe shooting will always rest with the applicant. It is their responsibility to ensure that the land is safe.


I USE MY AIR WEAPON TO CONTROL VERMIN IN MY BACK GARDEN, IS THIS STILL ACCEPTABLE?

Pest control is a valid good reason for having an air weapon. The size of your garden must be considered as well as the availability of a suitable backstop. Smaller gardens may be prohibitive to safe shooting but that will be something you can discuss with the police.


WHAT ARE THE TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR EXISTING FIREARM AND SHOTGUN CERTIFICATE HOLDERS?

If you are aged 14 years or over and hold a valid firearm and/or shotgun certificate that was issued prior to 31st of December 2016, you will not need to apply for a separate air weapon certificate until your existing certificate expires. This allows you to use and possess air weapons but not acquire any further or purchase air weapons.

If you wish to buy or otherwise acquire a new air weapon from the 31st of December 2016, then you will need to apply for an air weapon certificate. A Registered Firearms Dealer would need to see this before any transaction takes place.

When your existing firearm or shotgun certificate is due for renewal, you can then apply for a new air weapon certificate at the same time. If you request your air weapon certificate to expire in line with one (co-terminus) or both of your existing certificates (tri-terminus), you will pay a fee of £5.


I PARTICIPATE IN PAINT BALL, DO I NEED A CERTIFICATE?

Paintball guns are generally powered by carbon dioxide and are designed to be used in adventure games and similar events. Home Office guidance notes that in proper and normal use they are unlikely to cause serious injury. Nor were they designed as weapons. As such, they are not considered to be firearms and do not, therefore, fall within the air weapons licensing regime. Paintball guns owned or used for other purposes, or used to fire non-standard ammunition, may need a certificate – you should contact Police Scotland for advice.


I PARTICIPATE IN AIRSOFT AND I AM A MEMBER OF UKARA, DO I NEED A CERTIFICATE?

Airsoft guns with a muzzle energy below 2.5 joules (or 1.3 joules for fully automatic guns) are not covered by the 2015 Act. These guns are already controlled by the firearms legislation, notably the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006. Airsoft guns above these muzzle energies may require a certificate – you should contact the police for advice.


I HAVE A FIREARM AND/OR SHOTGUN CERTIFICATE, HOW AM I AFFECTED BY THE NEW LEGISLATION?

If you are aged 14 years or over and hold a valid firearm and/or shotgun certificate that was issued prior to 31st of December 2016, you will not need to apply for a separate air weapon certificate until your existing certificate expires. This allows you to use and possess air weapons but not acquire any further or purchase air weapons.

If you wish to buy or otherwise acquire a new air weapon from the 31st of December 2016, then you will need to apply for an air weapon certificate. A Registered Firearms Dealer would need to see this before any transaction takes place.

When your existing firearm or shotgun certificate is due for renewal, you can then apply for a new air weapon certificate at the same time. If you request your air weapon certificate to expire in line with one (co-terminus) or both of your existing certificates (tri-terminus), you will pay a fee of £5.


I HAVE AN OLD AIR WEAPON THAT DOES NOT WORK, DO I NEED A CERTIFICATE?

Yes, whether the weapon cannot presently work or not is immaterial.


HOW MUCH AIR WEAPON AMMUNITION CAN I HAVE?

Air weapon ammunition is not covered by the new air weapon legislation.


DO I NEED A SEPARATE CERTIFICATE FOR EACH OF MY AIR WEAPONS?

No, once successful in your air weapon certificate application, you can hold as many air weapons as you wish, as long as you have appropriate security measures in place for them.


I HAD MY FIREARM/SHOTGUN CERTIFICATE REVOKED PREVIOUSLY, DOES THAT PREVENT ME FROM APPLYING FOR AN AIR WEAPON CERTIFICATE?

Being revoked previously does not automatically preclude you from holding an air weapon certificate. The determination of suitability will take all of circumstances into account including those surrounding the revocation.


WHAT IF I DO NOT APPLY FOR A CERTIFICATE?

It is an offence under section 2(1) of the Air Weapon and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 for a person not authorised by law, to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon without holding an air weapon certificate after the 30th of December 2016.

A person who commits such an offence is liable on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine, or both. On conviction on indictment, this rises to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine, or both.