18 december 2016 at 16:23 #457TopSsssKeymaster
Legal issues in airsoft part 4: United Kingdom
There are currently certain restrictions on the possession of airsoft replicas, which came in with the introduction of the ASBA (Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003) Amendments, prohibiting the possession of any firearms replica in a public place without good cause (to be concealed in a gun case or container only, not to be left in view of public at any time). The prohibition of self-contained gas cartridge firearms can arguably apply to Moscarts and BB-Shower grenade systems, although it is intended to ban the sale of ‘brocock’ cartridge revolvers. However, a formal case precedent has yet to be set.
According to Section 36 of the VCRA (Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006) which came into effect on 1 October 2007, RIF’s (Realistic Imitation Firearms) may not be sold, imported, or manufactured. Unrealistic imitation firearms (IF’s) must have their principle color as transparent, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright blue, bright green, bright pink, or bright purple or have dimensions of no more than a height of 38 millimetres and a length of 70 millimetres (as defined in the Home Office regulations for the VCRA). Exceptions to the act are available for the following:
a museum or gallery
theatrical performances and rehearsals of such performances
the production of films and television programs
the organisation and holding of historical re-enactments
The notes for the VCRA state the following: “The regulations provide for two new defenses. The first is for the organisation and holding of airsoft skirmishing. This is defined by reference to “permitted activities” and the defence applies only where third party liability insurance is held in respect of the activities.” and “The defence for airsoft skirmishing can apply to individual players because their purchase of realistic imitation firearms for this purpose is considered part of the “holding” of a skirmishing event.”
The airsoft defense is based on whether or not a person is a skirmisher. One of the measures put in place by retailers was the forming of a centrally recorded and maintained database. This system is managed by the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association or UKARA. UKARA shares the database of registered skirmishers with the member retailers allowing quick and easy verification that the purchaser is allowed to buy a RIF under the VCRA skirmisher defense. To qualify for the UKARA database, a person must be a regular skirmisher (i.e. skirmish three or more times in no less than two months, and typically at one site) in order to be registered and the airsoft site they register at must hold public Public Liability Insurance. Skirmish play in the United Kingdom has a maximum of 350 ft/s, with some airsoft locations having a limit as low as 290 ft/s.
As long as a person can prove that they are an airsoft skirmisher, they may purchase RIFs. This can be done successfully by either joining the UKARA database (although this is not a legal requirement, and as such, is not recognised by the Home Office as having any legal authority over airsoft skirmishers) or other means, such as ordering a RIF from outside the UK and ensuring the parcel is marked in such a fashion that if Customs were to stop the parcel they can check the purchaser’s validity to purchase said RIF.
Airsoft guns and BB guns are not to be sold to anyone under the age of 18, but owning an airgun or airsoft is legal from the age of 10. The only way a person under the age of 18 is able to obtain a RIF or IF is by being given the item as a gift or by having parental consent. If someone under the age of 18 attempts to purchase an airsoft weapon, they are committing a crime and it may result in a fine.
The law on the use and purchase of airguns has only recently been changed, in the 2007 VCR Act. This act, with Violent Crime Reduction as its theme, included a change in the age at which one can legally buy an airgun, raising it from 17 to 18 years of age. It also changed the way in which airguns can be bought from shops.
From October 1, 2007, shops selling airguns as part of their business have become Registered Firearms Dealers and one can only buy from them direct, and not by mail-order. This restriction only applies to airguns and silencers, not to scopes, mounts or any of the huge range of airgun related accessories available from gunshops, and neither does it apply to private airgun sales as available, for instance, in the Airgun World Bullseyes or the Air Gunner Swapshop.
The penalties for breaking the laws that govern airguns are severe and those penalties bring airgunners entirely under the jurisdiction of the full firearms laws. In simple terms, when used unlawfully, airguns are regarded by the legal authorities as firearms, and carry exactly the same legal status as shotguns and live-ammunition guns, with no concession in law for the airguns vastly reduced power levels.
It is legal for anyone above the age of 14 to shoot an airgun, although an airgun is more dangerous than an airsoft gun, rules apply on private land where full permission to shoot has been given. Those below the age of 14 may shoot airguns only if closely supervised by someone over 18 years of age. The supervising adult is legally responsible for the actions of the junior shooter. Airguns may be used only on land where the user has full permission to shoot. It is illegal to shoot an airgun on any land, including common land, river banks, public land, recreation areas, or playing fields and land covered by water, i.e. lakes, ponds, canals, and rivers where one does not have full permission from the land owner or its tenant. It is also illegal to fire an airgun closer than 50 feet (15 metres) from the center of a public highway, bridleway, or footpath, if shooting causes upset or inconvenience to those using the highway.
It is legal for persons authorized by the landowner or tenant to carry out vermin control with an air rifle. The legal airgun quarry species include brown rats, magpies, carrion crows, rooks, jays, squirrels, woodpigeons, feral pigeons, and collared doves.
The legal muzzle-energy limit for air rifles is 12 ft.lb and for pistols, 6 ft.lb. For rifles producing more than 12 ft.lb, a Firearms Certificate (FAC) is required. Air pistols that produce more than 6 ft.lb are prohibited.
Airguns must always be transported in securely-fastened cases that do not permit the airgun to be fired whilst in the case. Since the implementation of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, airgunners between 14 and 18 years of age are no longer allowed to transport an airgun to the venues at which they shoot. These shooters must be accompanied and supervised by someone of 21 years or above.
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