An incident in Aberdeen has recently caught the attention of the police and the press, where children belonging to a traveler site where alleged to have fired BB guns towards the players during a match at the Aberdeen Sports Village.
Supporters of the Scottish Governments proposals to license all forms of air powered guns, against the guidance of sporting organizations such as SACS, SARPA and BASC, will be quick to use the incident, and as much media bias and misinformation on the story as they can to further their own ideas towards restricting the lawful use and ownership of airguns. We as part of the Firearms UK effort in support of firearms owners, and lawful sportsmen and women would like to offer our own view on the incident.
Firstly the reports of the incident seem to hover between the terms BB and airgun. BB and airguns are not the same thing, and it is inaccurate to use such terms interchangeably. Low powered airguns which don’t require a firearms license are comparatively more powerful than BB guns, consequently airguns and BB guns are handled differently by legislation. Airguns are largely used in target shooting, competitive target shooting and pest control and rely on this increased power (up to 16.25 joules before a license is required) to ensure humane kills of pest species and to hit targets at longer range. BB guns in contrast have an industry set maximum rating of 1.5 joules for full auto and 2.5 joules for single fire BB guns.
Secondly, airguns if indeed they were used in this incident are already covered by various laws, a few of which we will outline bellow. It is an offense under The Crime and Security Act 2010 for a person in possession of an airgun to fail to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent someone under the age of 18 gaining unauthorized access. It is also against the law for anyone bellow 14 years of age to be in possession of an airgun without supervision. Bellow the age of 14 the child needs to be supervised by someone over the age of 21, and if for example the child discharges a pellet across the boundary of land where they have permission to operate the airgun, which is also an offence, both the child and the supervising adult are committing an offense.
BB guns are also covered extensively by existing legislation. For example, to even own a BB gun which is considered realistic you have to be a member of an insured skirmish site, which are used for the sport of Airsoft. Unlike airguns it is lawful for under 18’s to be in possession of a BB gun, but only on the confides of private land.
Even without such specific laws against the misuse of airguns and BB guns, deliberately using either to cause harm or distress to a member of the public would be covered by common law.
Further emotionally motivated restrictions aimed at lawful people are not the answer to the problems of misuse, instead we should be looking towards education both in fostering responsible attitudes and specifically in making people aware of the current law as it relates to all firearms, and how they should be operated safely.
Arguably most of all what is needed to reduce the number of these incidents is parental responsibility, and enforcement of existing legislation.