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Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015

Meaning of air weapon

Section 1 – Meaning of “air weapon”

7.Section 1 defines the term “air weapon” for the purposes of the Part. Subsection (2) adopts the definition from section 1(3)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968 (“the 1968 Act”). Section 1(3)(b) of the 1968 Act provides that an air weapon is an air rifle, air gun or air pistol which does not fall within section 5(1) of the 1968 Act and which is not of a type declared by the Secretary of State by rules to be “specially dangerous”. The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) (Scotland) Rules 1969 (S.I. 1969/270) as amended are the applicable rules made by the Secretary of State.

8.The effect of this is that the Part applies to air weapons capable of a muzzle energy equal to or lower than 12 foot pounds (ft/lb), or 6 ft/lb for an air pistol (approximately 16.27 joules and 8.13 joules respectively). Air weapons above these thresholds – or those that come within section 5(1) of the 1968 Act, for example by being disguised as another object, or designed or adapted to use a self-contained gas cartridge system – will continue to require to be held on a Firearms Certificate issued under the 1968 Act. Note that section 48 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 provides that any reference to an air rifle, air pistol or air gun in the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997 includes a reference to any such rifle, pistol or gun which is powered by compressed carbon dioxide and therefore such weapons also fall to be licensed by the Part.

9.Subsection (4)(b)(i) adds a lower power threshold of one joule (approximately 0.74 ft/lb) to this definition, so that air weapons with a muzzle energy of one joule or below do not require to be held on an air weapon certificate. Subsection (4)(a) excludes air weapons that are not captured by the definition of “firearm” at section 57(1) of the 1968 Act, that is “a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged”. This means that, although certain air powered weapons may exceed 1 joule of muzzle energy, they do not fall to be regulated under this Part if they are not firearms for the purposes of the 1968 Act – for example, low powered airsoft weapons or paintball guns. Subsection (4)(b)(ii) also excludes air weapons designed for use only under water, for example spear guns, from requiring a certificate. Such weapons are excluded from existing UK firearms legislation by regulation 2 of the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) (Scotland) Amendment Rules 1993 (S.I. 1993/1541).

10.Subsection (3) sets out that component parts and sound moderators for air weapons are included in the definition of “air weapon”, and require to be held on an air weapon certificate.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Scottish Government to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Acts of the Scottish Parliament except those which result from Budget Bills.


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