The laws around the use and purchase of airguns was changed in 2007 with the introduction of the VCR Act. (Violent Crime Reduction) this act included a change in the age at which you can legally buy an airgun, raising it from 17 to 18 years of age, furthermore it also changed the way in which airguns can be bought from shops.
From October 1st 2007 shops selling airguns have become Registered Firearms Dealers, you can only buy from them direct, that means you cannot order by mail. This restriction only applies to airguns and silencers, scopes, Scope mounts or any airgun related accessories are not affected.
Using an airgun
It is legal for anyone above the age of 14 to shoot an airgun, unsupervised, on private land where full permission to shoot has been given. Those below the age of 14 may shoot airguns only if closely supervised by someone over 21 years of age. The supervising adult is legally responsible for the actions of the junior shooter.
Airguns may be used only on land where the user has full permission to shoot. This may be your garden, or private land owned or leased by an individual or club. Remember, wherever you shoot, you must ensure that all of your pellets remain within the boundary of the land to which your shooting permission applies.
It is illegal to shoot an airgun on any land, including common land, river banks, public land, recreation areas or playing fields and land covered by water, i.e. lakes, ponds, canals and rivers where you do not have full permission from the lands owner or its tenant. It is also illegal to fire an airgun closer than 50 feet (15 metres) from the centre of a public highway, bridleway or footpath, if your shooting causes upset or inconvenience to those using the highway.
It is legal for persons authorised by the landowner or tenant to carry out vermin control with an air rifle. The legal airgun quarry species include brown rats, magpies, carrion crows, rooks, jays, squirrels, woodpigeons, feral pigeons and collared doves. Other species, such as lesser black backed gulls, herring gulls and greater black backed gulls are best left to professional pest controllers.
The legal muzzle-energy limit for air rifles is 12ft.lb and for pistols, 6ft.lb. You do not require any form of licence for sub legal-limit airguns. For rifles producing more than 12ft.lb,a Firearms Certificate (FAC) is required. Air pistols that produce more than 6ft.lb are prohibited.
Airguns must always be transported in securely-fastened cases that do not permit the airgun to be fired whilst in the case. Since the implementation of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, 2003, airgunners between 14 and 18 years of age are no longer allowed to transport an airgun to the venues at which they shoot. These shooters must be accompanied and supervised by someone of 21 years or above. Remember, too, that it is now illegal to have an airgun loaded or not in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. This restriction applies to all airguns, even those that are being carried in securely-fastened gun cases.
As with all airgun laws, the responsibility lies with the user and the potential penalties are extremely severe. You must therefore make it a priority to learn and understand these laws as they apply to you and your shooting.