What are the current issues facing airsoft?

in 2015 two items of draft legislation were created that will impact on airsoft, as of the end of 2016 they are not yet enacted and are still in flux.

The first of which was the proposal 2015/0269 to amend the EU firearms directive. One of the intended effects of this proposal was to reclassify all replica firearms as real firearms. This would have meant that all fully auto replicas would have been banned, and the proposal wanted to ban all firearms of military appearance to boot. We’ve made great progress on trying to beat this problem, with our allies in Europe and our parent body the European Airsoft Association. Things could still go wrong thoughYou can get up to date with the latest news posts on this subject by clicking here http://www.ukapu.org.uk/category/legal-issues/eu-firearms-directive/

EU legislation will still affect us right up until we leave the EU. Even though there’s been a vote in favour of leaving, we haven’t left yet and won’t for a couple of years. It’s also likely that EU legislation passed into UK law before we leave will kept by future governments.  

The other issue is the UK governments ‘Policing and Crime Bill’ (PCB). The PCB aims to, amongst other things, set a threshold for ‘lethality’ which will determine at what power level an airsoft replica is classified as a firearm in law. You can get the latest news from this link http://www.ukapu.org.uk/category/legal-issues/policing-and-crime-bill/ and view the dedicated PCB FAQ page here http://www.ukapu.org.uk/pcb-faq/

What is Airsoft Skirmishing?

Airsoft Skirmishing (or simply airsoft) is a combat game, in which two or more competing teams tackle military style objectives in a secure and private environment, often a complex of buildings or an area of woodland. To simulate firearms Airsoft replicas are used to hit the opposing team with small plastic pellets called BBs. These replicas can look like almost any real life firearm and load and fire in a manner which simulates the function of the original. It is safer and much cheaper than paintball, but it is a similar game. Players are not marked when hit, so skirmishing relies on the honesty of the participants. Airsoft replicas cannot be converted to fire real ammunition. The intimidating appearance of airsoft replicas means that their purchase is limited to certain legitimate users such as film makers, re-enactors and airsoft players.

What is UKAPU?

UKAPU is an unincorporated non-profit association set up in 2010 by a group of airsoft players to help protect and strengthen our hobby. By providing a united and official organisation that represents players we can far more effectively engage in discussion with the government, other organisations and the press when skirmishing comes under threat. Please see our constitution for details of our aims and objectives.

What is an airsoft player?

An airsoft player is a person who is entitled to claim the airsoft skirmishing specific defence (e.g. they attend organised Airsoft skirmishes at sites with public liability insurance and is a member of at least one such site) as defined in the VCRA specific defence (Statutory Instrument 2606). This limited definition of a legitimate hobbyist is something that the skirmishing community and government had to agree to during discussions prior to the VCRA. It is clear from the wording of the VCRA that the defence is solely for airsoft skirmishing and so players who are exclusively (for example) collectors, playing between friends on private property or IPSC shooters are not permitted to purchase realistic coloured replicas.

What are the VCRA and the skirmishers defence?

The part of the VCRA that pertains to Airsoft replicas is essentially a piece of legislation designed to prevent RIFs (realistic imitation firearms) from being purchased by irresponsible people who might use them to intimidate members of the public. A few specific defences and exceptions (valid reasons for purchasing RIFs) were added to the act to prevent legitimate hobbyists like us from being unfairly restricted. This defence was an agreement between the Airsoft community (represented by the Association of British Airsoft, now disbanded) and the government. The arrangement is subject to ongoing monitoring by the Home Office. The Home Secretary is able to withdraw or modify the arrangement without consulting parliament.

What is a RIF and IF?

A RIF is a realistic imitation firearm. Any object that is indiscernible from a firearm to the general public. An IF is an Imitation Firearm, a replica which is coloured at least 50% in a bright colour or has at least 50% transparent parts.

Who is running UKAPU?

An executive committee elected by UKAPU members. As a full member, and as long as you have no commercial interests in Airsoft, you too could run for election onto the committee at the annual general meeting. Details about the current committee can be viewed on the biographies section of the site http://www.ukapu.org.uk/about/biographies/ .

How does UKAPU benefit me?

The main benefit we offer to skirmishers is the continuation of their hobby. British airsoft will die without associations protecting it, there can be little doubt of that, it has been proven many times as we’ve overcome several proposed bans in the last decade. Beyond this, we hope a members relationship with the association should be one that enhances their airsoft experience and gives them some appreciable perks that they would not have enjoyed otherwise. We run occasional members only games and a number of sites and shops offer discounts and offers to UKAPU members.

The other thing we can do is step in and represent you if the Police or Border Force have wrongly confiscated legitimate airsoft equipment from you. We’ve done this a few dozen times and always been successful in recovering the equipment and have even convinced the Police to drop wrongful criminal charges.

How does UKAPU benefit the people that run it?

The committee’s aims are entirely philanthropic. We love airsoft. Airsoft is a huge positive force in our lives, and we see the good it does for tens of thousands of people.  It’s about more that just airsoft though, we are standing our ground against the nimbys, PC brigade, nanny state and decline of personal liberty. UKAPU has cost each person involved in running it a huge amount of their private time and it will require more of the same to keep it running. We have no hidden motives or interests, and are not interested in self aggrandisement. We simply love the hobby and recognise the desperate ongoing need for a professionally run players association. UKAPU has been around since 2009, nobody has ever made money from it, all we’ve done is pursue our stated objectives. And to be fair, we’ve had a huge impact.

Can I now get involved in the running of the association?

Absolutely! We really need motivated people to get involved. We are all about delegation of responsibility, through which we hope that members will feel a sense of ownership and that the committee don’t become overwhelmed with the workload. The committee have lives and jobs too (we even like to have time for a skirmish every now and then)! So if you do fancy taking on a job, a co-opted position or helping with recruiting, simply drop an email via the contacts page. Further to which, UKAPU is unreservedly democratic. Come the AGM in November each year, if you apply for a committee position and you win more votes than the other candidate you can take over any committee role from the current officers.

Does UKAPU hold “Stakeholder status” at home office skirmishing consultations?

Yes, UKAPU is one of the organisations contacted by the Home Office when they want to discuss airsoft. We represent our members who are players whilst UKARA and ATB represent their airsoft industry members. Together we can show that all aspects of Airsoft are represented.

Who exactly do you represent?

Our members. As we are the only airsoft player’s organisation in existence, players who are non members won’t have a chance to make their voice heard. UKAPU is the only players voice that the government and other bodies are interested in listening to. Anyone is free to start their own players association in the same way that we did, however duplicating UKAPU would not be productive and would be allot of hard work for no good reason. So, as a skirmisher, to have your opinions, interests and objectives for the hobby represented to the powers that be, you should become a member of UKAPU.

Where do you stand on the other Airsoft organisations?

We support any Airsoft organisations that share our values; are open, democratic and work for the community benefit. We communicate regularly with Airsoft Trade Body and UK Airsoft Retailers Association.

We are core members of the European Airsoft Association, who represent the interests of European airsoft collectively.

The British government needs airsoft skirmishing to self regulate, this was one of the requirements specified during the VCRA negotiations, and this is only viable with both player input and cooperation between the main organisations.

Is UKAPU political?

Very much so. Whilst it would be great if we could just go play airsoft and keep to ourselves, being bothered by no-one, this is not how things are in the UK now. We are still an extremely minor aspect of the political agenda, but we are most certainly part of it. As such the community and the association have to play the political game to make sure airsoft has a future.

Has the threat to skirmishing passed since the VCRA?

Absolutely not. in 2015 and 2016 we had to face two pieces of legislation which both threatened to end airsoft. The possibility also exists that if the Home Office do not feel that the self governance of skirmishing is working, the home secretary can withdraw our specific skirmishers defence without reference to parliament. So as a community we must be proactive in preserving our hobby. If you are still sceptical, have a look at the Infer Trust as an example, an organisation who have received tens of thousands of pounds a year in “charity” funding and have an entire section of their website devoted to spreading lies about skirmishers. As a community we will eventually incur the wrath of a mislead public if we don’t proactively respond to people like the Infer Trust and Gun Control Network.

I’m not a Skirmisher yet, can I join UKAPU?

No but please take a look at our beginners guide and please do join up once you have started playing airsoft.

I’m under 18; can I still join?

Yes – we welcome membership applications from U18’s and are extremely glad to see young people getting involved in this hobby which is excellent exercise for mind and body. Under 18’s are referred to as junior members, and are essentially the same as full members but not entitled to vote.

Do you offer a site membership database (like the UKARA database)?

Not at the moment and we have no plans to create one, at the time of typing.

How do I join?

Just click the box to the right of the page or click www.ukapu.org.uk/join

How much will it cost to join?

Membership is free but you can donate £5 or £10 a year to help us cover running costs.

Where does the money go?

Members donations will primarily be used to administrate the association and fund the activities of the association. Reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred by members conducting UKAPU business will be refunded (on prior agreement) but no salaries will ever be paid to any of the committee. At the annual general meeting all the associations’ accounts are audited and are made available for public viewing on the UKAPU minutes page.

Where do I find the answer to a question that you haven’t answered?

If you have any further questions then please join our Facebook group, message our Facebook page or via the contacts page. If you have media enquiries about the airsoft hobby or UKAPU then please fill out the contact form and we’ll put you in touch with our Press Officer.