Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 14:03 UK

Legal firearm numbers in Scotland reach 10-year high

gamekeeper with rifle
There were 335 registered firearms dealers in Scotland at the end of 2009

The number of legally-held firearms has reached a 10-year high in Scotland, despite a fall in the number of certificates being issued.

Figures published by Scotland's chief statistician showed 70,856 weapons were held by people with certificates at the end of last year, up 2% on 2008.

The number of certificates had fallen by 1% since 2008 to 26,072, a drop of 9% from the total in 2000.

A certificate permits the owner to possess one or more weapons.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the rise in official gun ownership rates reflected "the fact that firearms owners and dealers are taking their responsibilities more seriously than ever in staying on the right side of the law".

He added: "A robust registration scheme and responsible dealers help ensure that these weapons do not fall into the wrong hands."

Increasing number

There were 335 registered firearms dealers in Scotland at the end of 2009, an increase of eight on the previous year.

Only 12 of the 1,124 applications for a new firearms certificate were unsuccessful last year, while only one of the 2,101 applications for a renewal was rejected.

The figures have been affected in recent years by the banning of the sale, import and manufacture of self-contained gas canister air weapons in 2004.

Owners of these weapons had to either surrender or formally register these weapons when the legislation came into place.

Over the last decade shotguns, which are classified separately to firearms, have followed a similar trend of increasing numbers of weapons registered but a falling number of individuals possessing certificates.

At the end of last year 137,768 weapons were being held on shotgun certificates - a drop of 0.1% on the 2008 figure, but up 11% since 2000.

The number of certificates rose by less than 1% between 2008 and 2009, but the total of 50,308 was 14% below the 2000 figure.

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