FIREARMS offences in Scotland have fallen sharply, the Scottish Government revealed.
The number of offences recorded by Scotland’s police forces fell 24 per cent, from 843 in 2009-10 to 643 in 2010/11 – a reduction of almost half since 2006/07’s figure of 1,259.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today welcomed the statistics but warned against complacency.
He said: “I warmly welcome these statistics as they demonstrate that, year on year, the number of crimes involving guns on our streets is dropping rapidly and the number of recorded offences involving firearms is now at a 32-year low. The message appears to be getting across that guns put lives at risk and anyone caught using them can and will be punished heavily.
“Our police officers across Scotland deserve great credit for their detection, educational and preventative work to get firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals and off our streets.
“These statistics reinforce that our communities are becoming safer and better protected. Thanks to the efforts of 1,000 extra police on our streets, recorded crime is now at its lowest level in 35 years, violent crime is down, fear of crime is down, and crimes of handling an offensive weapon are down to their lowest level in a decade – 38 per cent less than they were in 2006/07.
“While there are many positive elements to today’s firearm statistics, we cannot be complacent. All of us – the Government, police, the Crown Office and the courts – must continue working hard to ensure that in the long term, the number of offences involving firearms continues to fall.
“While the overall number of air weapon offences has dropped again this year, the figure of 233 offences remains too high. As a Government we have pressed the UK Government time and time again to let us take action on air weapons and it is encouraging that action is now underway to transfer responsibility for air weapons to the Scottish Parliament.
“Tough action needs to be taken. We either need action at a UK level, or the UK Government need to agree to devolve the current complex and piecemeal firearms legislation wholesale, to ensure that the law is able to better protect Scottish communities.”
However the Scottish Conservatives were concerned by the number of incidents involving children.
The number incidents where the victim was under the age of 15 increased to over half in some instances.
Scottish Conservative Justice Spokesman, John Lamont MSP said: “It is undoubtedly welcome news that the number of firearm offences are falling. This will be in no small part thanks to the 1,000 extra police that Scottish Conservatives managed to deliver in the last parliament, and it is vital that these numbers are maintained to ensure a further decline.
“However, it is still deeply concerning to see the high number of crimes involving firearms in which young people are involved. It is unacceptable that over a fifth of those committing offences with firearms were under 15 and even more concerning that over half of victims in some cases were under 15 as well.”
Labour also welcomed the decline but urged action to reduce the knife crime.
Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice Johann Lamont MSP said: “The overall decrease in gun crime is welcome and is testament to the hard work of our police officers across Scotland, but with the number of attempted murders involving a firearm increasing there can be no complacency whatsoever from the SNP government.
“Let’s not forget it is knives that continue to kill more Scots than any other weapon. The SNP government must redouble its efforts to drive down violent crime, especially knife crime. Scottish Labour will continue to speak up for the victims of knife crime and press the SNP government for the tough action the public and knife crime campaigners so desperately want. The message needs to be sent loud and clear that it is never, ever, acceptable to carry a knife on the streets of Scotland.”