It will be an offence to have an air weapon that does not have a licence. If a person does not have a licence for the weapon, they will be committing an offence from the outset. For example, the police might turn up at a property because of a domestic dispute and, while they are there, they might see an air rifle sitting in the hall. At present, they are powerless to do anything about that, and they have no knowledge of what the weapon might be used for. Under the bill, the police will be able to ask whether the person has a licence for the weapon. If the person does not have a licence, they will be committing an offence.
When someone applies for a licence for an air weapon, they will have to explain to the police the purpose for which they want the licence—how they intend to use the weapon. For example, is it for vermin control? Is it for sporting purposes? Is it for plinking? If it is for plinking, the police would consider the circumstances, finding out where the person lives and where the plinking might take place. The purpose for which the air weapon is held will be part of the check when someone applies for a licence. For example, if someone is applying for an air weapon to do plinking and they stay in a tenement with a back garden that is shared with the rest of the folk in the tenement, the police will be allowed to say that they do not think that it is appropriate for that person to have an air weapon to undertake that plinking in the shared back garden of their tenement. That is the approach that the police will be able to take under the bill.
Linking a particular incident to a particular weapon will always be a challenge. It can be a challenge for firearms and for shotguns, too. Earlier this week, the British Transport Police put out another call for evidence on a railway worker who had been shot with an airgun in High Bonnybridge, in my constituency. That is the type of thing that people continue to experience.
We are providing the powers for the police, when they see an air weapon, to check that it has a licence. If it does not have a licence, a person has committed an offence and the weapon can be seized.