It’s for the children — or maybe, really, for the child, singular. A toddler was murdered by an antisocial crumb using an airgun eleven years ago, and after a decade plus of wave-the-bloody-shirt publicity (and no further intervening homicides) the Scottish authorities have declared the devices contraband. Owners of the estimated half-million powderless peashooters in the quasi-country have from July to the end of the year to get a permit — which may or may not be issued, at the whim of police, and which requires them to prove, to whichever copper catches gun-ban duty, a “need” for the toy.
“Justice” Minister Michael Matheson made it clear that his preference was confiscation; while a little work has been done towards preparing to issue certificated to the politically connected and anyone with a “need”, much more effort has gone into preparing what he calls a “surrender campaign,” where those who don’t want to roll the dice on PC Plod getting their paperwork back on time (if the cops fail to do so, the Scottish subject is automagically a criminal under this malum prohibitum law), can simply turn in their gun now without charges rather than wait for next year’s heavy-booted raid (with charges).
It will be a criminal offence to have an air weapon without a licence or permit from 31 December 2016.
Under the new legislation approved by Holyrood last June, anyone found guilty of the new offence could be fined or face up to two years in prison.
Owners will have six months to licence their weapons before the law changes.
They will be able to apply to Police Scotland for an air weapon certificate from 1 July.
However critics have raised concerns that it may prove an administrative challenge for the force.
It’s not a challenge if they’re not really planning to rise to it.
It is estimated that there are about 500,000 unlicensed air weapons in Scotland.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) opposed the introduction of the new laws, claiming they were ‘disproportionate’ and that airgun offences were declining.
A spokesman said: “However, with the legislation now in place, and licences to be made available from July, we will do all that we can to help the many legitimate air weapon users in Scotland adapt to the new licensing regime.
“The six months ‘lead in’ period (before a certificate becomes a legal requirement) is shorter than we had anticipated and may present a challenge to Police Scotland staff, who will administer the new regime.”
So why the short lead-in time? You’ve had the shot, here’s the…
Police Scotland will also operate a “surrender” campaign, during which people can hand in unwanted weapons before the new legislation comes into force.
When they were done coming for everything else, they came for the BB Guns. Lord love a duck.
We’re reminded of a scene from the English (definitely not Scottish) film A Hard Day’s Night, in which a Someone-Big-in-the-City-looking gentleman irritated by John Lennon informs him, “I fought the war for you lot,” in tones that make it clear he’s rethinking the wisdom of that.
“I bet you’re sorry you won,” Lennon deadpans.
The Scottish government pledged to introduce the licensing scheme following the death of Glasgow toddler Andrew Morton, who was killed by an airgun in 2005.
The two-year-old died after being hit on the head with an airgun pellet near his home in the Easterhouse area of the city on 2 March.
Matheson identified air guns as primarily criminal implements:
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “This government has a long-standing commitment to eradicating gun crime in Scotland and this new legislation will better protect our communities by taking these potentially lethal weapons out of the hands of those who would misuse them.”
And he has made common cause with animal-rights extremists (yclept “animal welfare groups” in his statement) on this, and more:
He added that police, animal welfare groups and members of the public had to face the results of air weapon misuse every day.
Airguns, you see, don’t let antisocial scumbags like the guy that shot Andrew Morton, one Mark Bonini (right). The airguns are what cause crime, and what made Bonini do it! (Bonini had been amusing himself shooting teenagers, and he missed his intended target and hit the toddler the target, Andrew’s brother, was holding.
He said air weapons caused anti-social behaviour, as well as injuries to wildlife, pets and occasionally people.
And he deploys the gun-banner’s favorite conjunction, the abnegatory “but”:
“We are not banning air weapons outright, but ensuring that their use is properly regulated and users have a legitimate reason for them,” he said.
By the way, by our reckoning, which differs massively from that of Matheson, Police Scotland, and the BBC’s writers, it was Bonini who made the air gun do it. So what became of Bonini? You’ve had the shot, and the chaser… now it’s time for the…
Hangover: Sentenced in 2005 to “life,” the sentence in Scotland really means only 13 years, and so he’s almost out now.
Sharon McMillan, Andrew Morton’s mother, said at the time that the kid-gloves sentence for Bonini was “a joke.”
A 13-year sentence is a joke. Bonini will be just laughing at us.
As for his apology we do not accept it. He did mean it. He also meant to hit my 13-year-old son.
He will not see his wean’s first day at school. Well, neither will I, because my wean was murdered.
Of course, she has since focused on advocacy for an airgun ban, and so hundreds of thousands of airguns are likely to be confiscated from those Scots who didn’t do it, while the one who did will walk out of jail, free as a bird.
Maybe the Scots shouldn’t outsource policy-making to any irrational, bereaved mother with a bloody shirt to wave.
And maybe the Scots ought to seek a replacement for Matheson, whose reaction to a wretched and heartless murder is to punish the innocent and reward the murderer.