Friday, 14 December 2012

All your air weapons are belong to us

As you may or may not know, I don't often add anything of a serious disposition to this blog usually because I can seldom think of anything serious to say, also, I know its an effort reading these things and I hate wasting your time. I've just finished reading this for example, it was very dramatic and had me thinking about buying some land or stocking up on tinned goods, but all it turned out to be, was an advert for a magazine subscription, so when I say I understand, I really do.

The reason for this blog is the consultation launched today about the licensing of air weapons. Turns out the Scottish Government wants those of us who own air guns to have a licence for them, along the same lines as is required for a shot gun.

I won't go into the details because a) you probably don't have an air weapon and b) you may not actually be interested, suffice to say; you'll need a licence and to get it, you'll need to subject yourself to a police visit, a medical check (as in the police asking your doctor if you are a nutter) and be in possession of a good reason for having said weapons. Oh aye, and you'll have to pay for it all to happen, regardless of whether you actually get the licence or not.*

I've already filled out a consultation, I have two air weapons (and can say right now, don't have the slightest inclination to use them to commit a crime.) One is a rifle that was in an attic, its in a locked metal cupboard in a private hall, the other is a pistol I got from my dad on my 15th birthday. It goes without saying, having it for sentimental reasons won't get me a licence.

Kenny MacAskill in the consultations blurb talks about a safer Scotland and the 500,000 unregistered unlicensed air weapons in circulation, how many of those are in the hands of miscreants though, and how much of a reaction is this to 1) having a new power and using it and 2) as a reaction to a news paper campaign driven by the heart, not the mind?

The main driver for the legislation was the tragic death of toddler Andrew Morton in Glasgow back in 2005, a 27 year old drug addict fired an air weapon from a window killing the young boy. Mark Bonini was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. What more can you do, would he have applied for a licence for his air rifle? Would it have stopped it from happening? We'll never know but you don't need to do much extrapolating to understand that it probably would not.

Air weapons are dangerous, licensing them will only be onerous on those who have them for non-nefarious purposes or indeed, sentimental value. Those who are already existing on the other side of the line in terms of the law won't bother their arses about it, so who is really being affected and what is actually being improved?

The other side to this is accidental shootings where no actual crime is involved. Tragic accidents happen, although the circumstances by which they take place can be regulated, it won't stop it entirely. Since the tragic death of Andrew Morton, air weapon-related incidents have dropped by over 50%, do we really need a new licencing regime and the paper work that goes with it and would it make any difference if we did, I mean to say, are Ball-Breaker Bill and West End Wendy really going to apply for a licence for their illegally held weapons cache? I think not.

Beyond that, there is this issue of Scotland becoming a nanny state under the SNP, I think its fair to say all parties will end up supporting this because (with the utmost respect for the family of Andrew Morton,) in the face of a knee jerk newspaper campaign and a law driven by emotional reaction; how can they not. But again, law abiding otherwise decent people are being made to jump through hoops and part with yet more money to pay for a bureaucracy which will ultimately do nothing to deter the very thing it exists to reduce.

Kenny? You've made me put up a serious post, this is not good enough. You clearly need to think again on this, not just because I was forced to say something sensible, but because its a shit idea. Licensing won't work, its not the object being held, its the person holding the object which is the problem, going by the logic being deployed for air weapons, the next consultation will be on the licensing of cutlery drawers.

* At the risk of coming over all critical and unhelpful, currently gun shops must record a name and address against anyone wishing to buy an air weapon (who must also be over the age of 18.) I'd suggest the same thing but further backed up with forms of ID and that air weapons have serial numbers, the information can be collated and kept centrally, at least if the police need to attend an incident they can be somewhat forewarned. This would afford some control of new weapons entering into circulation, in terms of weapons already circulating, a perpetual amnesty so people can hand them in with out fear of prosecution would work well.

The consultation can be found here.