The laws surrounding Airsoft have long since been a popular topic of discussion both inside, and outside, the airsoft community. We are often asked why it is so difficult to buy an airsoft gun when anyone over 18 can buy an airgun. We decided to try and find out...
We took time to research this subject, reading crime reports and speaking to relevant people, and this is what we found in terms of crimes involving imitation firearms.
In the year ending March 2005, crime rates involving imitation firearms reached an all time high, at 3,373 crimes being recorded where an imitation firearm was used. This number had dropped significantly following the introduction of the VRCA 2006 Act, with the lowest recorded year being the year ending March 2015 when only 1,123 crimes were recorded to have involved imitation firearms.
Out of interest we went on to look at crimes recorded involving airguns, since they seem to be a lot easier to get hold of - we were shocked. Crimes recorded to have involved an airgun were at a high in the year ended March 2003, when 13,822 crimes were reported. This has also dropped significantly, with the lowest recorded year being year ended March 2020 where only 2,784 crimes were reported to have involved an airgun.
Looking at percentages we can tell you that, from March 2005 to March 2015, crimes involving imitation firearms dropped by 66.71%. Crimes involving airguns had dropped by 79.86%, from March 2003 to March 2020. Although airgun crime has a higher percentage drop, it still occurs more frequently than crimes involving airsoft guns. From March 2003 to March 2020, there are over 107.46% more crimes recorded involving airguns than there are involving airsoft guns. Wow!
Considering the above findings, we think it is safe to say that the VCRA Act 2006 did, in fact, make a pretty big difference in terms of reducing violent crime, as it was intended to. It doesn't, however, tell us why it is a more difficult process when buying an airsoft gun than it is when buying an airgun.
As discussed in previous posts, in airsoft you don't need a 'licence' but you do need a defence. In airsoft the 'defence' simply means that you need to be able to provide evidence that you are an airsoft player, that you have been playing airsoft for at least 2 months, and that you have played at least 3 games. Once you have met the criteria it is up to you which form of defence you choose to use, with various options including UKARA, British Airsoft Club (BAC) membership and site membership among others.
While we haven't managed to find a logical reason for the difference in the documentation needed when comparing airsoft guns to airguns, we only have one real concern - the interest of protecting our much loved sport. We are committed to ensuring that airsoft can continue for generations to come, as well as for protecting our customers and the safety of others. That is why, if you can not provide evidence of a defence, we will only be able to sell you a two toned weapon (providing you are over 18 years old of course). Please don't be offended by this, it is not us accusing you of intending to use an imitation firearm in a crime, we are purely protecting the industry that we all love, by following the laws and protocol set for the industry.
In section 36 of the VCRA Act it states that, unless you have a valid reason (as set out below), it is illegal to buy an imitation firearm. The purposes they have listed as acceptable are:
a. The purposes of a museum or gallery;
b. The purposes of theatrical performances and of rehearsals for such performances;
c. The production of films (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998 (see section 5B of that Act);
d. The production of television programmes (within the meaning of the Communications Act 2003 (see section 405(1) of that Act);
e. The organisation and holding of historical re-enactments organised and held by persons specified or described for the purposes of this section by regulations made by the Secretary of State;
f. The purposes of functions that a person has in his capacity as a person in the service of Her Majesty;
You may notice that Airsoft is not mentioned at all in Section 36 as a valid reason to purchase an imitation firearm - do not fear! A separate part was added to the Act to cover our industry, which states:
For airsoft skirmishing, the Association of British Airsoft is putting in place arrangements to allow retailers to check that individual purchasers are members of a genuine skirmishing club or site. The key elements of these arrangements are:
- new players must play at least 3 (three) times in a period of not less than two months before being offered membership
- membership cards with a photograph and recognized format will be issued for production to retailers
- a central database will be set up for retailers to cross-check a purchaser’s details
- a member’s entry on the database will be deleted if unused for 12 months.
The defence for airsoft skirmishing can apply to individual players because their purchase of realistic imitation firearms for this purpose is considered part of the “holding” of a skirmishing event.
In short, as long as you have proof of a legitimate reason to purchase an airsoft weapon, you're covered. If not, as long as you are over 18 years old, you can still purchase a weapon, but it will need to be two-toned.
If you have any questions, related or unrelated to this subject, feel free to ask - thanks for reading :-)