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Abertay forensics expert assists Scottish Parliament with air gun control Bill

19 November 2014

Forensics expert Dr Graham Wightman will today give evidence to the Scottish Parliamentary Committee who are gathering formal evidence for Stage 1 of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill.

Dr Wightman - a Lecturer in Forensic Science at Abertay University - is one of the few scientists in the UK who have to date published research into the safety of air weapons.

His research has shown that it is not only the power of the weapons that needs to be taken into account when assessing their safety, but also the type of ammunition used - round or flat pellets - and how the pellets strike their target as well.

Using ballistic gel to represent muscle tissue, together with animal organs from an abattoir embedded into the gel, Dr Wightman has used CT scanning to examine the trajectory of pellets and the damage they can cause to internal organs and bone, as well as - most recently - the amount of protection offered by different types of clothing.

Although a plethora of research exists into the damage that can be caused by handguns, the main source of data that was available on air weapons prior to Dr Wightman’s research came from the field of medicine when victims presented at hospital with severe injuries or as fatalities.

Although air weapon offences - along with other firearms offences - are declining, there were 10 deaths from air weapons in the UK in the decade 2000-2010 and 43 offences in Scotland last year where an air weapon was alleged to have been fired causing injury.

Speaking ahead of the round table discussion that will take place on Wednesday, Dr Wightman said:

"Although many air guns owners - such as gun club members - use air weapons responsibly, it is unfortunately the case that some people assume air weapons are relatively safe because no licence is required.

"The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill currently being scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament will both control ownership of air weapons and - I hope - raise public awareness that these weapons are not toys and have the potential to cause serious injury."


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