Legal Issues Surrounding the Use of Airsoft Guns
Airsoft guns are akin to BB or pellet guns, and are manufactured to look just like rifles, handguns and assault weapons. Airsoft guns fire pellets via gas, spring or electrical systems and are typically used for war games, target practices, firearms training, or even as movie props. Because Airsoft guns so closely resemble real firearms, they can have potentially devastating consequences, which is why there are regulations in place for the manufacturing, importation and ownership of Airsoft guns.
While Airsoft guns are toys, they are still capable of causing a certain level of harm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2005, nearly 20,000 non-powder gun injuries were treated in the United States emergency rooms, and 71 % of these injuries involved individuals twenty years old or younger. The risk of serious eye injuries are great during Airsoft war games if everyone involved is not wearing eye protections. BB's from the Airsoft travel at speeds of hundreds of feet per second, and though they are technically "toys" there has been a recent, yet significant rise in Airsoft-related eye injuries. A much greater concern exists, however, because of the extremely realistic look of Airsoft weapons. Unfortunately there are reports of young people be shot by police who believed the youngsters were holding real weapons.
Laws and Regulations for Airsoft Guns
There are some countries where Airsoft guns are illegal, such as Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. Federal importation laws in the United States require that all Airsoft guns transported within or imported into the country have the blaze orange tip on the barrel to avoid confusion with real firearms. Most Airsoft guns come with disclaimers stating it is illegal to remove the orange tip, but many times children will paint over the tip, pry it off, or put tape over it in order to make their Airsoft gun look more realistic. While the law states that individuals in the United States must be 18 years of age or older to buy an Airsoft, they are not classified as firearms so are legal for use by all ages. Some municipalities and states have placed restrictions on Airsoft guns, and, in fact, New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and some parts of Michigan have outlawed Airsoft guns altogether. Other states, California being one of them, make brandishing a look-alike gun in public illegal, so if an Airsoft or replica gun is used to commit a crime, they will be treated as though they had used an actual gun.
Airsoft guns should always be treated as real firearms while handling and transporting them, and those who use Airsoft guns should be aware of the laws surrounding their use. Reckless handling can lead to a range of criminal consequences, and, in extreme cases, injury or death. When minors are using Airsoft guns they must have careful adult supervision, and, at a minimum, protective eye gear. Airsoft guns should never be used in a public area, and before purchasing an Airsoft gun you should first look into your particular local and state laws surrounding their use. Airsoft games can be fun and exciting, so long as they are used legally and carefully.