Airguns are real guns. They are cheap, accessible to buy on impulse and no background checks are required*. The power of airguns is measured in muzzle (or kinetic) energy. This is the energy at which the projectile leaves the muzzle of the air weapon. The vast majority of air pistols (muzzle energies of less than 6 foot pounds), and the vast majority of air rifles (muzzle energies of less than 12 foot pounds) are referred to as 'low powered’ and can currently be held without a licence*. Those with greater muzzle energies and those which use a self-contained gas cartridge system can only be held on firearms certificates issued by a police firearms licensing department.
It is an offence to carry an airgun in a public place without good reason.
See ‘Gun Law’ pages.
IDENTIFICATION - It is often impossible to tell without close examination if a gun being brandished during an incident is an airgun, airsoft, replica, bb, imitation, toy or paintball gun. Victims of armed crime are traumatised and not surprisingly unable to identify the gun being used to assault them. Media reporting is unreliable and unless guns are fired or recovered and can be authenticated they are categorised as ‘unidentified’. Many press reports which refer to ‘handguns’ are likely to be airguns* or other non-licensed imitations which look like handguns.
1 AIRGUNS – FATALITIES
Airguns are responsible for a significant number of deaths – homicides, suicides, accidents and tragic child on child killings.
2. AIRGUNS – VIOLENT CRIME
Airguns are used in violent crimes including armed robbery, domestic violence, sex crimes, drug related crimes, intimidation, drive-by shootings and vandalism. Victims fear they are about to die and the consequences are traumatic and long lasting. Airguns can inflict life-changing physical and psychological injuries on victims. Incidents require police investigation, hospital treatment, court costs, insurance and repairs. Victims and families endure pain and suffering, time off work, loss of income and disruption to daily life. Airgun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer.
3. AIRGUNS – ‘BOYS' TOYS’ CULTURE
So-called ‘low powered' airguns are powerful enough to inflict fatal and life-changing injuries on adults and children, as well as on cats, dogs, farm animals, wild life, swans and other birds. ‘Low powered’ airguns are relatively cheap and are bought and sold through licensed gun dealers as well as websites, on line forums, magazines and newspaper adverts, car boot sales etc., often on impulse with no background checks*. The ease of access gives rise to a 'boys’ toys' culture and perpetuates the dangerous myth that, unlike guns which require licences, airguns are somehow not dangerous. Airguns (and other guns which do not require licences) are involved in about half of all gun crime and about a quarter of all gun injuries. Airgun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer.
4. AIRGUNS - CRIMINALS BANNED FROM OWNING GUNS CAN STILL BUY AIRGUNS
Criminals banned by the Courts from possessing guns, and those banned from possessing guns by virtue of having served prison sentences, can still buy airguns from licensed gun dealers and private sellers, no background checks are made.
5. AIRGUNS – MENTAL HEALTH, ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Airguns are accessed by individuals suffering from mental health issues and those involved in alcohol and drug abuse, no background checks are required.
6. AIRGUNS – CRIMINAL DAMAGE, VANDALISM, ANIMAL CRUELTY AND COST TO THE PUBLIC
Incidents of criminal damage, vandalism to public and private buildings and animal cruelty are difficult to investigate and although criminal prosecutions are rare these incidents require police investigation, insurance and repairs and cause inconvenience, disruption to daily life, commerce industry and transport. Victims and families endure upset, time off work, loss of income and disruption to daily life. In cases of animal cruelty farmers, pet owners and animal charities are faced with considerable veterinary costs. Airgun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer
7. AIRGUNS – CAPABLE OF BEING CONVERTED TO FIRE BULLETS
Some airguns which are cheap to buy and available to anyone without any background checks can be converted to fire live ammunition or modified to fire at a higher power.
8. AIRGUNS – IRRESPONSIBLE STORAGE AND CHILD ON CHILD KILLINGS
Irresponsible airgun owners leave guns in wardrobes, on shelves, under beds, propped up in corners or in sheds and outhouses where children have accessed them to ‘play’ with tragic consequences. Many such shootings involve children who are friends, neighbours and siblings.**
9. AIRGUNS – IRRESPONSIBLE STORAGE AND THEFT
Irresponsible airgun owners leave guns in parked cars, sheds, garages outhouses caravans and boats with impunity. Petty thieves target these ‘easy access’ locations and as a result airguns fall into the hands of criminals.**
*The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill
The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2015 and received the Royal Assent in August 2015. Under the provisions of the Act it will be an offence for a person to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon in Scotland without holding an air weapon certificate.
** Under Section 46 of the Crime and Security Act 2010 individuals face a fine of up to £1000 if they do not take reasonable precautions to stop unauthorised access to their airgun by people under 18.
See ‘Gun Law pages for details of legislation.