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Hi Rodeo Man, you are quite correct. The air bag light should come on and then go off if there are no faults on the airbag system just like the engine management and abs lights do.
There are a couple of reasons that this light might not be coming on, either the bulb has been removed because the previous owner couldn't be bothered fixing the fault before selling the car or the bulb has blown.
If there is a fault on the airbag system the air bags will not deploy in the event of an accident.
Personally i would remove the clocks and see if all is in order with the bulb. If there is a bulb in i would swap it for one that you know is working (eg, abs light) and see if it is working ok then.
If it is working and the air bag light stays on, you will need to get plugged upto a diagnostic machine to diagnose the fault.
Either way this is a vital piece of safety equipment and may just save a life.
I would personally sort it out asap.
Currently in parksider's garage:
1998 laguna rt 1.6 16v