It has been very widely reported in the press that an airsoft range has publicised their offering of paper targets depicting Shamima Begum, a teenager who travelled to Syria to support ISIS.

Notwithstanding any opinions about the morality of the actions of Ms Begum, we at UKAPU believe that targets depicting real people who are currently in the public eye – even for controversial reasons – is at the very least distasteful and inflammatory, especially given how volatile this particular story has been. The negative media attention that has been brought to airsoft speaks for itself, and was fairly predictable.

Regardless of how harmless these paper targets may seem, there are people out there who will use this as an attempt to discredit airsoft as a legitimate activity.

The authorities will no doubt now be aware of this incident. Airsoft was able to survive through the many legislation crises over the last 12 years because representatives were able to portray the airsoft community as being both responsible and aware of the sensitive nature of replica firearms. Thus, we have avoided regulations, on the promise that we could be trusted to behave and self regulate – without the heavy restrictions that have been placed on the firearms community.

Headline news incidents such as this could make it very hard to justify our position.

In addition, this incident has caused misplaced backlash for the firearms community. We have relied on their support to keep airsoft above water, and we are striving for ever closer ties. This behaviour would not have been tolerated in the firearms community – and this could cause them to regard airsoft as a liability.