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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
SNP seeks airguns sale licences
Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill wants to licence shops that sell airguns
Shops selling airguns north of the border should be licensed, according to the Scottish National Party.

The SNP made the call the day after Mark Bonini, the man who shot dead two-year-old Andrew Morton with a pellet in Glasgow, was jailed for life.

Firearms legislation is reserved to Westminster but licensing shops is within Holyrood's powers, the SNP said.

But the Scottish Executive responded by saying the matter was wholly the responsibility of Westminster.

The SNP said restricting the sale of airguns to those with a legitimate use would reduce offences.

The UK Government unveiled plans for new legislation on airguns in June.

This would be a crucial first step in dealing with this vital issue prior to the parliament gaining the necessary full powers to deal comprehensively with the issue
Kenny MacAskill
SNP justice spokesman

However, the proposals fell short of the outright ban being demanded by Andrew's parents.

First Minister Jack McConnell said the proposals did not go far enough and raised the possibility that Scotland could go it alone on the issue.

Speaking after Bonini's conviction for murder, the Home Office said it was working closely with Scottish ministers to see whether other controls were required.

"The government will not hesitate to bring forward whatever further measures it is agreed are necessary," a spokesman said.

Restrict sale

SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill said on Wednesday that immediate action was needed.

He unveiled his party's proposals to restrict the sale of airguns by licensing the shops that sell them.

"While we want to go further by licensing the use of airguns themselves, the Labour/Liberal executive can take this particular action immediately with the powers they already have," he said.

Andrew Morton
Andrew Morton's death sparked calls for a ban on airguns

"These shops are situated on high streets the length and breadth of the country.

"Steps must be taken to regulate them and action can be taken to licence them."

He called on the executive to back the proposals and added: "This would be a crucial first step in dealing with this vital issue prior to the parliament gaining the necessary full powers to deal comprehensively with the issue."

The executive insisted that the possession, handling and distribution of air weapons and ammunition was a "fully reserved matter".

No 'going it alone'

The spokesman said: "As such the Scottish Parliament is prevented from, by any means, legislating on that matter."

Scottish ministers had made it clear, the spokesman added, that they wanted to take action but "going it alone" would not be a sensible option.

"It is right that legislation continues to be reserved and dealt with at a UK level - this recognises the ease of movement across borders and avoids the creation of unnecessary bureaucracy or loopholes and inconsistencies which could be exploited," the spokesman said.

Dr Colin Shedden, director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, said Mr MacAskill was "trotting out old ideas".

He said: "A significant number of airguns are already sold through registered firearms dealers in Scotland.

"Both the SNP and Cathy Jamieson should recognise that such sales are not problematic.

"Imposing licensing on other retailers will not address either mail order or internet sales."

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