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Policing and Crime Bill 2015-16

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As you all probably know, efforts to update police powers (amongst other things) are made almost yearly. This year we're seeing a bill introduced that specifically mentions 'airsoft' (rather than in the VCRA where airsoft guns fall under the category of 'RIFs', and are not really mentioned as being their own category).

Here's a link to the bill

Here's a link to the page on Parliament.uk - It's just completed its first reading in the house of commons on the 10th and allegedly had its second reading yesterday according to the minutes. Nothing on the website though.

And here's what you're interested in

After section 57 insert—
57A Exception for airsoft guns
(1) An “airsoft gun” is not to be regarded as a firearm for the purposes of this Act.
(2) An “airsoft gun” is a barrelled weapon of any description from which only a small plastic missile, with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that does not exceed the permitted level, can be discharged.
(3) “Small plastic missile” means a missile that—
(a) is made wholly or partly from plastics, and
( B) does not exceed 6 millimetres in diameter.
(4) The permitted kinetic energy level is—
(a) in the case of a weapon which is designed or adapted so thattwo or more missiles can be discharged successively without repeated pressure on the trigger, 1.3 joules;
( B) in any other case, 2.5 joules.


Commentary
Everything said during readings must be written down, and you can view those comments here. As this bill was effectively just announced, there are no minutes regarding opinions or anything but maybe you'd like to read the paragraph on it anyway.

See the debate minutes here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160210/debtext/160210-0001.htm#160210109000009


Key points

  • Airsoft guns will not be included in any of the actual firearms legislation made throughout this bill
  • Airsoft guns can only fire plastic BBs
  • Airsoft BBs must be plastic and must not exceed 6mm in diameter
  • Automatic airsoft guns have a new energy limit of ~370ft/s with a .2g BB
  • Semi or bolt action/everything else have a new energy limit of ~515ft/s with a .2g BB

Extra point: VCRA stays completely unchanged as far as RIFs are concerned. No change to the sale of imitation firearms.

My thoughts on the above

  • Great - no more grey area and a distinction between airsoft as a hobby and recreational shooting with actual firearms is a good thing as far as I'm concerned
  • This bit makes me worry as it says '...which only a small plastic missile [...] can be discharged' - right now there's nothing to stop anyone from putting aluminium or steel BBs in their GBBR and turning the NPAS off, turning it into something that resembles a firearm if powered by HPA. The bit that worries me though is how it says 'only' - to me this implies guns must only be able to shoot plastic, and this to me is poorly worded and unenforceable. Right now every airsoft gun can fire steel BBs if you wanted it to. The good news is that this puts more distance between airsoft and pellet/air guns
  • Why they chose 6mm I'm not sure. 8mm BB guns do exists, and how this will affect MOSCARTS that fire larger calibre projectiles is unknown - if they by default fall under the other parts of this bill because they're not classified as 'airsoft' then that's not really a good thing
  • 370ft/s with a .2g is actually very good for us, and allows sites more leeway in most cases
  • Having a limit of 515ft/s with a .2g on everything else is also a good call - I know of no sites that allow higher than 500 anyway

All-in-all: A little muddy but actually better than I was expecting.

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mainly what guidelines are in place anyway

well except for the bit that implies it is ok for shooting somebody right up close with 515fps

 

kind of lets us know they are taking airsoft seriously

(rather than big kids with pew pew toy guns - oh wait shhh don't let them see that bit)

 

as long as we don't act like dicks is the best rule atm.....

(love to see how they would word that into the new bill but covers most things)

nothing passed - yet but remember....

 

tumblr_inline_njfnpw9cHD1rvkz2p.jpg

Sacarathe likes this

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Here's hoping the airsoft bits slip through un-amended, because it's not actually very controversial compared to what else is in that bill.

 

What I sort of take away is the benefit this may have for site owners: Insurance companies having airsoft legislation that sets out key guidelines like this is a good thing. They may decide those guides are too high, but either way it's not really the shot in the dark they were making before now that airsoft potentially could have its own firm energy limits. Less anal insurance companies could mean good things for all site owners and those looking to insure sites that are right now seen as slightly more risky. Who knows.

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This does seem to add clarity, and while there might be tiny(?) potential downsides, a specific acknowledgement being made for Airsoft seems to be mainstreaming the legitimate side of the sport in policy makers eyes - this can only be a good step no?

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May just may mean we can up our FPS to 370ish whcih would be nice....

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I think it's a good thing, to actively seperate airsoft from air rifles etc, can mean seperate legislation that is less one size fits all and more tailored for the sport.

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Thanks for sharing this so thoroughly prof.

 

Is this for the police to test the 'gun' in the aftermath of an alleged crime? Don't want customs testing imports.

 

Though I think the whole of s.77 has context here. As you mention some appears unenforceable.

 

After section 57 insert—
57A Exception for airsoft guns
(1) An “airsoft gun” is not to be regarded as a firearm for the purposes of this Act.
(2) An “airsoft gun” is a barrelled weapon of any description from which only a small plastic missile, with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that does not exceed the permitted level, can be discharged.
(3) “Small plastic missile” means a missile that—
(a) is made wholly or partly from plastics, and
( b ) does not exceed 6 millimetres in diameter.

(4) The permitted kinetic energy level is—
(a) in the case of a weapon which is designed or adapted so that two or more missiles can be discharged successively without repeated pressure on the trigger, 1.3 joules;
( b ) in any other case, 2.5 joules.

 

As for does not exceed 6mm, would that simply mean that an 8mm projectile would not be classified as an airsoft gun?

 

It good to see no apparent offences are made in section 77, though:

 

(3) In that section, before subsection (2) insert—

 

“(1B) In subsection (1)(a), “lethal barrelled weapon” means a barrelled weapon of any description from which a shot, bullet or other missile, with kinetic energy of more than one joule at the muzzle of the weapon, can be discharged.

 

(1C) Subsection (1) is subject to sect ion 57A (exception for airsoft guns).”

This is a bit open. Hopefully section 57B Power to amend section 57 will balance it out.

 

Furthermore, what about paintball? Does this make all paintball guns lethal barrelled weapons? I presume there is already some legislation on paintball guns.

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Can a legal eagle explain if this will affect us across the water with regards to power limits?

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What water would that be?

The Irish Sea

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Seems to be no mention of airsoft in proceedings so far.

 

Shame there's not a subsection insisting airsoft guns be tested at game sites before play.

Edited by Sacarathe

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the 370fps (1.3 Joule) thing is very important for fully automatic stuff:

DO NOT TAKE YOUR GUNS TO 370!!!

 

IF you were to chrono at 1.31 Joules rather than 1.29 then your airsoft gun is NOT an airsoft gun, then it falls into the firearms categories. If it's a fully automatic firearm then It's a section 5 firearm.

Possession of a section 5 firearm carries a MANDATORY (IE, you MUST go to prison) for a minimum of 5 years, maximum of 10

 

The second caveat of section 5 is that 'once section 5, always section 5' so if an AEG is manufactured in china and has a muzzle energy above 1.3Joules then guess who can't buy it? yeah, anyone from the UK.

 

HPA Users need to be careful of Joule creep or using a kit that allows the gun to output more than 1.3 Joules by opening up a regulator, and gas users need to be careful of leaving mags in the sun.

 

http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_manual/section_5_firearms_act/

 

EDIT: I have been asked why I put the link - it's source material for the claim that there are mandatory prison sentences.

BigAl, Sacarathe, proffrink and 1 other like this

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the 370fps (1.3 Joule) thing is very important for fully automatic stuff:

DO NOT TAKE YOUR GUNS TO 370!!!

 

IF you were to chrono at 1.31 Joules rather than 1.29 then your airsoft gun is NOT an airsoft gun, then it falls into the firearms categories. If it's a fully automatic firearm then It's a section 5 firearm.

Possession of a section 5 firearm carries a MANDATORY (IE, you MUST go to prison) for a minimum of 5 years, maximum of 10

 

Why are they not already considered as such? I don't recall.

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Er, isn't that the entire point of this thread, Dave? Heh.

 

Do you mean the ongoing debate about 'readily convertible' firearms like some of the CO2 revolvers banned way back? It's a problem for basically any gun because a spring change, regulator adjustment etc. can easily get someone over 1.3J. More unenforceable grey-ness regarding the outlawing of stuff that's easy to get firing over the limit. Not sure where that lands with the public until there's some precedent.

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Er, isn't that the entire point of this thread, Dave? Heh

 

He posted at the same time I edited out a line containing "I can't see the point in..." among another things. I was having difficulty seeing what the govt gained from this legislation. I can now see that the statutory inclusion of a new firearms class makes it easier on everyone (airsoft players/public/police/cps).

 

But, there's a downside, while now you can just say "my guns are legal airsoft guns", the police might say "no, we must test them", and they might get undesirable results.

 

Can you imagine if they mucked up their force testing. Not to mention there is so much you can pull apart about why an airsoft gun might be illegally hot, they're not exactly reliable. Police might dial off the hop, mess up calculations/bb weights.

 

And by what dave said above, wouldn't that make HPA instantly and permanently illegal (with an FCU permitting automatic fire), and kill paintball overnight at the same time? Where's the exception for paintball?

Edited by Sacarathe

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Hopefully they will manage to amend this to include 8mm guns.

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Hopefully they will manage to amend this to include 8mm guns.

 

If they didn't, surely those would continue to fall under whatever category they're currently in?

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If they didn't, surely those would continue to fall under whatever category they're currently in?

 

Yes, but airsoft insurance is likely to become specific to events using airsoft guns as legally defined... if 8mm doesn't fit the legal definition for an airsoft gun a site's insurance won't cover it's use and the site quite rightly won't allow them to be used.

 

As for getting up to 370fps, there's no reason at all right now why sites can't do that... several do. The reason we have a ~350 ish limit across the board for most places is comfort since most people sit at around 330 ish anyway, if the new norm was 370 then people would strive for that and being full autod at close range at 370fps really smarts.

 

I can see so many problems with this proposed legislation;

only capable of firing plastic pellets - I can put a 6mm metal BB in my gun and if I pull the trigger it'll shoot it.

readily convertible to more than 1.3j - any HPA system, any PTW and a fair few standard AEGs with quick change springs can go from 300fps to 450fps in less than 5 minutes with almost no technical knowledge.

 

The whole above 1.3j thing being section 5 worries the shit out of me, obviously it's unlikely (prosecutions should be in the public interest) that anyone's going to be slapped with a 5 year jail sentence for having a 371fps gun, but at the same time it's possible. As others have said above, what if you get pulled over and a copper decides to seize your guns for testing and the lab takes 12 months to get round to testing them? Or even worse, they screw up the testing and your 330fps 100% legal airsoft gun lands you in clink for 5 years.

proffrink and Sacarathe like this

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I can see so many problems with this proposed legislation;

only capable of firing plastic pellets - I can put a 6mm metal BB in my gun and if I pull the trigger it'll shoot it.

readily convertible to more than 1.3j - any HPA system, any PTW and a fair few standard AEGs with quick change springs can go from 300fps to 450fps in less than 5 minutes with almost no technical knowledge.

 

The whole above 1.3j thing being section 5 worries the sh*t out of me, obviously it's unlikely (prosecutions should be in the public interest) that anyone's going to be slapped with a 5 year jail sentence for having a 371fps gun, but at the same time it's possible. As others have said above, what if you get pulled over and a copper decides to seize your guns for testing and the lab takes 12 months to get round to testing them? Or even worse, they screw up the testing and your 330fps 100% legal airsoft gun lands you in clink for 5 years.

These were exactly my concerns too if you check the OP. How on Earth they expect to enforce such a change I don't know. Elecro-magnet above the barrel that clogs up when you put metal in it? Yeh, I don't think so, heh.

 

The whole 'readily convertible' thing is super dumb. It's been around for a while though and is why deactivated firearms need a proper certificate to prove that they're not readily convertible back (i.e. removing the firing pin is rarely enough to make something legally safe). These guns are deigned to fire a projectile, so the law seems pretty misinformed. If it means registration and testing like you say then I can't see that happening either - such a programme is far too expensive for the government to conduct for such a niche sport. Here's hoping they're just sensible about it.

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These were exactly my concerns too if you check the OP. How on Earth they expect to enforce such a change I don't know. Elecro-magnet above the barrel that clogs up when you put metal in it? Yeh, I don't think so, heh.

 

The whole 'readily convertible' thing is super dumb. It's been around for a while though and is why deactivated firearms need a proper certificate to prove that they're not readily convertible back (i.e. removing the firing pin is rarely enough to make something legally safe). These guns are deigned to fire a projectile, so the law seems pretty misinformed. If it means registration and testing like you say then I can't see that happening either - such a programme is far too expensive for the government to conduct for such a niche sport. Here's hoping they're just sensible about it.

 

I did read the OP, I was agreeing with you.

 

Thankfully there are representatives from UKARA, UKAPU and another retailer's association regularly meeting with representatives from gubernment to discuss these concerns. There's no point making bad law that's all but unenforceable.

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only capable of firing plastic pellets - I can put a 6mm metal BB in my gun and if I pull the trigger it'll shoot it.

By that logic this new statute will have zero effect if it describes a class of gun which has not yet been invented (for use in airsoft). :)

 

They should reword it to add the word "designed" somewhere.

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I did read the OP, I was agreeing with you.

 

Thankfully there are representatives from UKARA, UKAPU and another retailer's association regularly meeting with representatives from gubernment to discuss these concerns. There's no point making bad law that's all but unenforceable.

I didn't say you hadn't - poorly worded, sorry.

 

Yeh, I saw the Facebook posts about UKARA and UKAPU - were they not basically told the 8mm thing wasn't happening though?

 

Also, unenforceable law is most certainly a thing in any modern country. It's as much about prosecutory powers as it anything else - being able to slap an extra charge on for someone having an easily convertible RIF is probably something that appeals to some people who've seen those get away with a smaller sentence than they should for brandishing that CO2 revolver with the regulator 'nut' removed, but it's worrying how those sorts of things affect actual players.

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By that logic this new statute will have zero effect if it describes a class of gun which has not yet been invented (for use in airsoft). :)

 

They should reword it to add the word "designed" somewhere.

 

At which point you get to court and have to prove the gun was only designed to fire plastic pellets, who are you going to call as your witness to back this up, Mr Marui?

Sacarathe likes this

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I'm still a little hung up on the fact the BBs have to be plastic, to me this screams that the new bill was written by someone who doesn't ask many questions before just throwing the law down.

What about bio BBs? Are they no longer allowed?

And what about heavier weights? I always assumed that to increase the weight of a 6mm ball without actually making it bigger, denser material was added to the mix - i.e. Not plastic. Not fully plastic anyway.

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