Effective from 10 February 2011, it will be an offence to allow anyone under 18 years old to gain access to an airgun. Owners of airguns will be liable for a fine of up to £1,000 if they do not take reasonable precautions to stop unauthorised access.
In 2009/10 there were 1,317 incidents where an air weapon was obtained without permission. In future, safety leaflets will be included with every airgun purchased.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) estimates there are up to seven million airguns in the UK. Airguns are commonly used for pest control in situations where they offer an effective method of humane control with minimal disturbance and risk to safety – for example pigeons, gulls and rabbit management undertaken by wildlife specialists.
The Home Office Crime Prevention minister, James Brokenshire said: “For the vast majority of responsible airgun owners, keeping their weapon safely locked up is routine. But when an airgun is allowed to get in to the wrong hands the consequences can be tragic.
“Although serious incidents are rare, there have been cases in recent years where children have got hold of carelessly stored airguns that have resulted in severe injuries and even deaths. We want to do everything in our power to keep the risk of such incidents to an absolute minimum.
”With this new legislation, we are saying there is no excuse. If you do not keep your airgun safely away from children you will be prosecuted.”
BASC, the UK’s largest shooting organisation, believes the proposed measures are common sense.
Commenting on these new regulations, Bill Harriman, director of firearms for BASC said: “Young people who are legally allowed to use airguns will not be affected by these changes. Airgun safety is a matter of good sense and good practice and all legitimate users of airguns are aware of safety precautions including access and storage.
“It is regrettable that a small number of incidents of abuse and carelessness have prompted Government action. However, we support measures which will reduce the misuse of airguns while not further restricting the safe use of airguns by law-abiding owners.”
Safety leaflets will be included with every air gun purchased. The following are tips on how to keep your weapon safe:
- store your airgun out of sight and separately from pellets
- use a robust, lockable cupboard and keep the keys separate and secure
- always store your airgun inside a house rather than in an out building, such as a garden shed
- never store a cocked or loaded airgun
- when using your airgun, keep it under close supervision and never leave it unattended