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Little change seen from firearms legislation

12 May 2010

Despite various changes to firearms legislation to enhance public safety, Scotland's chief statistician has seen little change in ownership levels.

The main findings of the statistics are:

  • There were 26,072 firearm certificates on issue at the end of 2009, a decrease of 1% on the previous year, and 9% lower than the number in 2000.
  • However, the number of firearms held on certificate was 70,856, an increase of 2% from 2008 and the highest number held in the 10 years covered by the bulletin.
  • The number of shotgun certificates on issue at the end of 2009 was 50,308, an increase of less than 1% from 2008, but 14% lower than at the end of 2000.
  • However, the number of shotguns held on certificate was 137,768, a decrease of 0.1% compared to 2008, but an increase of 11% since the end of 2000.
  • There were 335 registered firearms dealers in Scotland at the end of 2009, an increase of 2% from the 327 registered dealers at the end of 2008.

Since 1997, various changes have been made to firearms legislation to enhance public safety, including:

  • The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 introduced a requirement from 1 October 2007 for anyone selling or transferring air weapons by way of trade and or business to register with the police as a firearms dealer.
  • Since 20 January 2004, there has been a ban on the sale, manufacture and import of self contained gas cartridge (SCGC) air weapons. Individuals who held such weapons had until 30 April 2004 to surrender them to the police or apply for a licence. This has increased the number of air weapons possessed on certificate compared to previous years.
  • Changes in regulations regarding the length of time a firearm or shotgun certificate was valid took effect from 1 January 1995, increasing the period of certification from three to five years. This had the knock-on effect of reducing numbers of renewals in 2003 and 2004, with numbers rising again in 2005 and 2006. Numbers of cancellations are similarly affected. In 2008 and 2009, a further five years on from 2003, a knock-on effect is perhaps evident with the number of renewals and cancellations falling once again.

Under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and Firearms (Amendment) (No 2) Act 1997, all pistols – otherwise referred to as handguns – were banned. The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 provided special exemptions for slaughtering instruments, and certain firearms used at athletics meetings, for the humane killing of animals, trophies of war etc.

To download the Firearms Certificates Statistics, Scotland document in full, click here