Air weapons licence deadline

New laws requiring a licence take effect on 31 December.

Air weapons owners who haven’t yet applied for a licence need to decide now what they will do with their firearm when new laws come in to effect on 31 December.

In 2015/16, an air weapon was the main firearm in nearly half of all offences involving a gun in Scotland. The new law, which requires a certificate to own or use an air weapon, is designed to improve public safety by taking air weapons out of the hands of those who would misuse them.

From 31 December, having an air weapon without a licence will be a crime that could lead to a fine or, in some cases, imprisonment of up to two years. The deadline for applying for a licence ahead of the law coming into force was the end of October.

Anyone without a licence on 31 December must ensure their firearm is appropriately stored, until their licence application has been processed. This means safely storing the air weapon – for example, with a firearms dealer or another certificate holder. 

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“Every day the police, the public and animal welfare groups have to face the results of air weapon misuse, from anti-social behaviour to horrific and deliberate injuries to wildlife, pets and very occasionally people. By licensing air weapons we will take them out of the hands of those who would misuse them and better protect our communities.

“The new law coming into force is part of our long-standing commitment to eradicate gun crime in Scotland. We are not banning air weapons outright, but ensuring their use is properly regulated and users have a legitimate reason for them.

“We believe the new licence strikes the right balance between protecting communities and allowing legitimate use in a safe environment to continue.

“If you own an air weapon and haven’t had your application processed in time, make sure you’re not breaking the law by storing your air weapon in a safe and appropriate place.”

ACC Mark Williams, of Police Scotland, said:

“I would like to thank communities throughout Scotland for their support in relation to both the Air Weapon surrender campaign and the ongoing licensing process, where we have seen more than 18,000 unwanted air weapons surrendered to Police Scotland for secure destruction since the summer. Should you still have an unwanted air weapon, you can still hand it in.

"I would like to remind the public that anyone who still has an air weapon and wishes to keep it must apply for a licence. We are currently processing around 7,000 applications that were applied for before the 31 October 2016, and would seek to remind anyone who applied after this date, who does not have their certificate by the end of this year, that in line with the legislation they must make arrangements to have their air weapon(s) stored in a safe and appropriate place and either with someone who has an air weapon, firearm or shotgun certificate or a registered firearms dealer, to avoid committing an offence."


The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 25 June 2015. Part 1 of the Act requires a person to have an air weapon certificate from 31 December 2016 if they wish to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon in Scotland, unless they are exempt under the legislation. 

Detailed plans for the air weapons licensing scheme were set out earlier this year and people have been able to apply for a certificate since 1 July.

Anyone submitting an application for a certificate after 31 October this year will have their application determined in 2017. Until that time, they should make arrangements to place their air weapons with another certificate holder, or with a registered firearms dealer.

For more information on the new legislation, go to


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