Recently the Scottish government have put forward legislation regarding the ownership and licensing of air weapons. As any responsible member of society should agree air weapons are not something you want any idiot off the street to be able to own and shoot.
Unfortunately though, this is tarring Airsoft with the same brush.
There has existed for as long as I’ve played a vague 1 Joule (that is firing a .2g 6mm bb at 328fps) limit in the “legality” of airsoft power levels. Some places allow for a higher limit, either up to around 350 fps to allow for a 10% variance on 328 fps, or up to 450 or 500 fps for single shot bolt action rifles.
It’s always been muddy if airsoft “guns” existed as “weapons” “firearms” or “toys” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airsoft#Airsoft_guns. When the Violent Crime Reduction Act came into force they were classified as either Imitation Firearms or Realistic Imitation Firearms depending on their colour – mostly due to the fact that they do look like real firearms. That however doesn’t seem to account for their actual operation, and given that they do use compressed air or an air cylinder to propel the bb then air powered does seem like an accurate description – but does this still constitute a weapon ? Doesn’t this accurately describe a paintball marker also ?
Kenny MacAskill, Justice Secretary for Scotland certainly seems to think they’re weapons. I wrote to my MSP to raise the issues affecting airsoft due to the new legislation (who was incredibly helpful I must add) and Kenny’s reply to her shows that “The Bill makes no distinction between air weapons used for airsoft and other purposes”.
“This has been carried into the Bill which states that air weapons which are considered to be lethal barrelled weapons, but which are not capable of developing a muzzle energy of 1 joule or more, would not be subject to the new licensing regime.” So what is a “lethal barrelled weapon” ? Could we upgrade a Nerf gun to be 1.1 Joule and have that considered a firearm http://britnerf.co.uk/The_1_35_joule_limit_about1151.html ?
It seems his reply has left me with more questions than answers.
Stephen Pringle (“Frenchie”), an airsoft expert, has written a fantastic blog piece on why enforcing a strict limit on airsoft will prove detrimental to the sport, in both those that it will affect now and also as how this legislation could act as a “foot in the door” for further restrictions. He does a far better job of discussing the specifics than I ever could, so I would urge anyone interested to read his post about it here http://frenchie35.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/why-do-50-fps-matter/.
For those wanting to keep up with this legislation you can find it online here http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/76383.aspx.