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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
SNP urges airgun licensing scheme
Shop owner Martin Morris holds a Webley fully legal power air rifle
The SNP wants a licensing scheme on airguns introduced
Nationalists have urged Westminster to introduce a licensing scheme for people possessing or using airguns.

Ministers already plan a new registration scheme with dealers required to pay a 150 fee.

As figures showed a slight fall in air weapon offences, SNP MP Stewart Hosie said Holyrood should be given control over airgun legislation.

The measures follow the death of a two-year-old boy in Glasgow who was struck by an airgun pellet in March.

Scottish Executive figures published on Tuesday showed that air weapon offences accounted for 43% of firearms offences in 2004-05, compared to 45% in 2003-04.

MPs are considering changes in the Violent Crime Reduction Bill but Mr Hosie said the government has not taken Scotland's problems with airguns into account.

'Side issue'

He said the SNP wanted the government to introduce a licensing scheme or devolve control on airguns.

The MP added: "The current legislation is aimed at reducing gun crime in England.

"The government has completely overlooked the serious airgun problems facing Scotland."

Andrew Morton
Andrew Morton died in March after he was shot in the head

Mr Hosie said a sensible licensing scheme was essential to stop irresponsible people getting access to air weapons whilst ensuring the protection of sportsmen.

"We can give the Scottish Parliament the final say and design a system of controls that meet the challenge posed by airguns in our communities," he said.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said statistics published by the executive showed the number of airgun offences in Scotland had fallen over almost 10 years.

To bring 500,000 airguns under a licensing regime, as suggested by the SNP, would be impractical
Dr Colin Shedden
BASC Scotland

BASC Scotland said there were 497 airgun offences committed in 2004/5 compared to 1,155 in 1995/6.

Spokesman Dr Colin Shedden said: "There are an estimated 500,000 airguns in Scotland.

"To bring all of these under a licensing regime, as suggested by the SNP, would be impractical and has already been rejected by both Westminster and the executive."

Dr Shedden added that education and enforcement of existing legislation would prove more effective than "more expensive and disproportionate measures".

Mark Bonini was jailed for life in August for murdering two-year-old Andrew Morton.

In response to calls for a tightening of the law, the UK Government said dealers would have to prove to police that they were fit to be a registered firearms dealer

The measures also include a ban on internet or mail order sales of airguns.

The steps were welcomed by Scottish police, who said they would make a "major contribution" to tackling the problem.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said tightening the law was a fitting response following Andrew's death.




SEE ALSO
Airgun sales 'to be restricted'
12 Oct 05 |  Scotland

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