What is the Policing and Crime Bill (PCB)?
This is a wide ranging bill looking to tie up numerous loose ends from previous legislation ranging from police complaint, alcohol licensing to maritime enforcement.
You can view information about it here http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/policingandcrime.html
Which part affects airsoft?
The difference between a firearm and a non firearm is whether the device is lethal.
Section 6 part 3 essentially creates a lethal threshold of 1 joule, meaning any barrelled weapon above this becomes a firearm. Note that after meetings and representation we managed to obtain section 5 which increases this limit to 1.3 Joules for automatic airsoft guns and 2.5 Joules for single shot.
But airsoft guns aren’t lethal
There is a difference between what most people consider as lethal, able to kill, and the legal definition of lethal which is along the lines of “able to inflict more than a trivial injury”. Regardless of what we think there needs to be scientific evidence to back up our position and testing from 2011 supports our position.
So what happens to an airsoft gun over the lethal limit?
If it is a single shot rifle or semi-automatic pistol then it just becomes and air rifle or pistol, the limits here are roughly 8 Joules for a pistol or 16 Joules for a rifle. Just bear in mind no insurance company will cover people shooting “lethal” air weapons at each other.
In the case of an automatic airsoft gun its bad news. We end up with an automatic air weapon which is prohibited through the 1968 firearms act.
Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended) contains various descriptions. Any firearms (regardless of kinetic energy) that fall within any of the following definitions are prohibited weapons. 1. Any firearm which is so designed or adapted that two or more missiles can be successively discharged without repeat pressure on the trigger. [Section 5(1)(a)]
This is a mandatory 5 year jail sentence.
What about my 450fps DMR?
Did the factory make it semi-automatic? If so you may be in with a chance, if it’s a regular AEG semi locked then it will be viewed as it was originally manufactured…hence prohibited.
What about gas and HPA guns?
There is ongoing discussion (glacial as it may be dealing with government) about the status of readily convertible replicas. This means an item that is very easy to make into a firearm, in our case make fire above the lethal limit. With most automatic gas guns you could just put in high power gas and heat the mags up, for HPA guns you just turn the regulator up. There is a very real risk of these types of replicas becoming unusable for airsoft or becoming sec 5 prohibited.
Does this just affect players?
This limit would affect everybody as there is no special dispensation for shops to have illegal firearms. They would have to ensure every item coming into the UK be at a suitable power, the same as private individuals. Anybody who has imported a clone gun from overseas knows how difficult it could be to get a true reading of the power.
This increased stringency would certainly push up prices and limit the range of RiFs available.
Why is this Lord attacking the small exemption we have gained?
Charles Henry John Benedict Crofton Chetwynd Chetwynd-Talbot, 22nd Earl of Shrewsbury is the President of the Gun Trade Association. He has tabled the amendment to remove the section we have fought hard to get removing the small power increase of 1 to 1.3J for auto guns and up to 2.5J for single shot.
This is a purely business motivated move by the GTA in order to bypass the VCRA. They are under the incorrect assumption that an automatic firearm is not section 5 prohibited. By wanting to line their own pockets and put airsoft guns in the hands of any idiot who wanders into a shop they are directly attacking the hobby we all enjoy as well as threatening it future by trying to cynically sidestep the checks and balances that the airsoft industry has so successfully abided by for the last 10 years.
But we don’t need more than 1 Joule, I don’t want to hurt people in game?
That’s not why we have tried to gain an exemption to 1.3J, our aim has been to set the upper limit at a point where any normal and responsible airsofter will not be at risk of holding a section 5 illegal firearm.
1J is 328fps with a 0.2g bb, at 329fps it will be illegal. There is no leeway or tolerance on this, equally with joule creep you could just put some heavier ammo in. What about the temperature or other conditions that could make a slight difference?
If the lethal limit is set at 1 Joule the accepted limit at sites and from shops is going to have to be lower, 10% maybe so 300fps, fine for indoors but not so fine for out in a windy woodland. We don’t advocate that sites go and increase their limits to be in line with the buffer we are lobbying for, we just want to prevent innocent players from having illegal firearms.
I have an AEG firing over the lethal limit, what should I do?
Downgrade it if you can, if this bill is enacted in its current form, you more than likely would have a section 5 firearm and the penalty if caught is severe.
I have a gas or HPA gun firing over the lethal limit, what should I do?
I don’t know of many ways to easily downgrade the power in a method suitable to show it’s not a readily convertible item. If this is the case you have a section 5 firearm and may need to hand it in.
I have a semi auto pistol or single shot rifle over the lethal limit, what should I do?
Nothing at all, you just have an airgun and are allowed up to 8J or 16J. Of course you can’t actually use this now at any reputable game site so it’s just target shooting for you.
What can I do to stop this?
We are working with UKARA and any other people who have a stake in this to work out a coherent lobbying plan to combat this. This will likely involve more letter writing to MPs and Lords and as soon as we have form letters for you to send we’ll make them available.
Of course if you aren’t a member of UKAPU please join, it’s completely free and every extra member adds weight to our arguments and lobbying.