AIR guns are to be licensed under new powers being handed to Holyrood, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced today.
The proposals do not go as far as an outright ban, but would require owners to have a legitimate use – such as pest control or sport shooting – to justify possession.
Mr MacAskill unveiled the plans, which will now go out to consultation, during a visit to Lothian and Borders Police headquarters at Fettes.
He said: “We have a long-standing commitment to crack down on the misuse of guns and a licensing scheme for air guns will help address the problems that these weapons can cause to individuals and communities in the wrong hands. Too much misery and harm has been caused.
“We are not banning air weapons outright, but there has to be a legitimate use for them.”
Controls were tightened following the death of two-year-old Andrew Morton in Glasgow in 2005 when he was hit by an air gun pellet.
The minimum age for possession of an air weapon was raised from 17 to 18 and firearms dealers were required to register with the police.
Regulation of firearms is one of the powers devolved from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act 2012, along with speed and drink-drive limits.
Mr MacAskill said: “We are not consulting on the principle of licensing – this will happen.
“While our primary concern is for public safety, we do not wish to penalise those who use air weapons responsibly and who can demonstrate a legitimate use for a gun.”
Figures published earlier this month showed a firearm was allegedly involved in 156 offences across Lothian and Borders in 2011-12, slightly up on the 149 recorded for the previous year.
Across Scotland, the number of firearms offences fell by 21 per cent from 647 to 514, the lowest figure for 34 years. Of those, 195 involved air weapons.
In 2008, a young mother and her baby daughter had a lucky escape after a bus they were travelling in came under fire.
Lynsey Wade, 20, and one-year-old daughter Rihanna were on the X95 First bus service approaching Edinburgh Royal Infirmary when the window they were sitting next to was shattered by what appeared to be an air gun pellet.
Today’s plans were developed in consultation with the Scottish Firearms Consultative Panel and will affect anyone who currently owns an air weapon, those buying new weapons, or those who wish to bring them into Scotland – for example, to competitions or on holiday.
Before the new laws come into effect, there will be a period for people to hand in unwanted guns to the police.