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Action on firearms needed
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has repeated his call for a Scottish pilot licensing scheme for air weapons as statistics show offences involving air weapons still account for half of all firearms offences.
While welcoming the overall drop in firearms offences and praising police efforts which have led to a rise in the clear-up rate for firearms offences, Mr MacAskill has written to the Home Secretary to suggest that a Scottish pilot could be based on the firearms licensing system in Ireland.
In Ireland the system is based on a simple threshold of one joule. Any weapon with a muzzle energy in excess of this is classed as a firearm and must be licensed, including air weapons and paintball guns.
Those applying for a licence must prove they have a good reason to hold a weapon, including where appropriate producing proof of permission to shoot on private land from landowners.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:
"Clearly it is good news that the number of incidents involving firearms has fallen and I welcome the increase in the number of offences cleared up by the police.
"These statistics show the problem is not going away. The fact that air weapons still account for half of all incidents, while over a third of those being injured and killed by firearms are children, shows more still needs to be done.
"People are crying out for action to tackle firearms, to get them off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous individuals. This is action that I've been trying to take and I will continue to press the UK Government to let us take action.
"I want to pilot an air weapon licensing scheme which will immediately start to address the problem of air weapons which are used irresponsibly and held unnecessarily.
"In the meantime we've been having a closer look at the system in Ireland. By comparison with the UK legislation, it is simple, easy to understand and effective and has largely dealt with the problem of air weapons in communities. It wouldn't solve our problems overnight, but it would be a definite step in the right direction.
"A standard, simple threshold to determine when a licence is needed seems to be common sense to me. While the need to have a valid reason to own a weapon is, in my view, entirely justified.
"The Irish system is one that we could learn from. A clearer Licensing Scheme that could help Scotland turn the tide on the scourge of weapons and make our communities Safer and Stronger."
The Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland, 2007-08 was published today.
Scottish Government officials met with representatives of the Irish Government and the Gardai to find out more about the Irish system of licensing Firearms. Following this they updated the Justice Secretary on their findings.