On Friday UK Airsoft Players Union, UK Airsoft Retailers Association and Airsoft Trade Body were invited to the Home Office HQ in Westminster to discuss the Police and Crime Bill and the airsoft exception. UKARA also brought along Police Chief Adrian Whiting, whose extensive political and legal experience was very helpful indeed.
All 3 bodies are on the same page and we have very similar concerns with the current draft of the bill which is primarily that;
1. 8mm airsoft replicas will not be defined as airsoft.
2. Airsoft replicas are defined as a device which can ‘only’ fire plastic BBs.
3. Fully automatic airsoft replicas could be defined as ‘readily convertible’ as you can push most of them over 1.3J easily enough.
4. Anyone importing or in possession of fully automatic replica that is found to be over 1.3J will be deemed to be in possession of a section 5 firearm (5 year prison sentence for most of us). This is of course very relevant to owners and traders of HPA and GBB models, whose equipment would be tested on the strongest gas pressure available.
Although this Bill is designed to clear up firearms law (amongst other things) we are now fully involved with Westminster politics. As such, there are allot of factors in play, such as party politics and also the anti-airsoft lobby (who are in staunch opposition to the airsoft exception). People will be watching what we airsofters say in public over the coming months. So things are pretty complicated and little can be taken at face value.
We presented some proposals to Government representatives and (without pre-empting the minutes) very little was accepted or rejected outright. This meeting was really the starting point for the process. What seems clear is that they will hold us to the 1.3J/2.5J recommendations of the ACPO testing. We will have more meetings with them over the next year, and if we present an amendment that the Home Office finds favourable they could present it to Parliament. However, there’s still a fair chance that this won’t happen, but we live in a democracy and the airsoft community may need to write to their MPs and the House of Lords in order to get our amendments sponsored and voted in.
If you’ve looked at the PCB you’ll notice that airsoft and lethality make up a very small part of it which is why we won’t be permitted the opportunity to submit evidence to the parliamentary committee.
So what’s the next phase? We need to all agree on the amendments that we are going to push for. We need to collect some more evidence. And we need to bolster the support of the airsoft associations. The only viable option is for us all to work together and be one strong voice asking for the same thing through elected representatives and a well-coordinated lobbying campaign. Anything less will be fruitless. If we fail to clear this Bill up, airsoft players and traders could end up in prison in the future for holding normal airsoft equipment.
The Bill is in the committee stage of the House of Commons and the Home Office project it will be enacted in law before the end of the year.
Players should like UKAPUs Facebook page and then we can keep you in the loop.
If you are in the airsoft industry you should keep in touch with ATB and UKARA