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Longshot

Is it too easy for under 18s to obtain IFs and RIFs?

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In the last week I've read two stories on forums and one on an airsoft Facebook group from under 18s talking about how they have got their hands on IFs or RIFs. On top of this we had the Fiona Phillips article in The Mirror about how it's too easy for kids to get 'BB guns' (though she seemed to be talking about CO2 powered air pistols rather than airsoft guns).

 

The law says that it is illegal to sell an IF or a RIF to anyone under 18. It also says that it is illegal for an under 18 to purchase or even attempt to purchase an IF or RIF. So why is it seemingly so easy?

 

Given that we all know that it's easy to lose teeth and eyes with even low powered airsoft weapons, and that there is the potential for a serious (and possibly lethal) encounter with the police if you decide to do something stupid with your RIF, surely this is the real area that has the potential to 'threaten our sport' (especially if an incident like the recent one in the US happens over here with a kid getting killed).

 

With this in mind I'm wondering: is it too easy for under 18s to obtain IFs and RIFs? and if so, what can be done about it?

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Same as any age restricted item, there are ways around the law just like booze and fags.

 

Is there anything that can be done? I don't really think we need to, it is already illegal to sell them to u18s so why complicate things with more legislation/rules?

 

On a personal level if say just to be vigilant and make sure you're not selling anything to anyone under age.

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Longshot, the danger isn't just under 18's. An over 18 could buy one and be a twat as well.

 

Everyone who I know that is an Airsofter is smart enough to know not to be stupid with them, as they know how fragile this sport is. The issue can be children who buy them and don't know what they're doing. But as they don't skirmish, they can only have a bright gun, which hardly looks threatening if you use your brain, an armed policeman would definitely not shoot.

 

When I was 11, I owned a cheap blue springer pistol and I used to shoot it in my front garden, people didn't care, they may have had a glance, but I think people notice the bright colour before they even notice the gun shape.

Last year, my neighbour's kids were shooting cars passing by, so I walked up to them and was being assertive to them, telling them not do it again, as they could hurt themselves. Luckily, they're smart, so they didn't do it again.

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There are so many instances of things that are banned/illegal/age-restricted not working, alcohol, tobacco, drugs of any kind, knives, sex even unfortunately the systems that are in place work in most situations but there are always those that try to get around them.

 

I bought a gun second hand and went to pick it up, I offered the seller a look at my ID and my UKARA so they could check but they didn't feel it was necessary. I would have preferred if it had been checked.

 

The issue is with people who just want a sale and are not interested in how they go about it. Action needs to be taken swiftly and decisively to deal with them.

 

My suggestion would be for the community to be very proactive. Instead of simply sitting back and throwing our hands in the air saying "oh what a shame it'll always happen" we should be seen to be working within the VCRA and the police to report those instances where laws are being broken to an institution that will actually take action. I know that might be a suggestion that may prove unpopular but if we were seen to be taking things very seriously in terms of buying and selling, essentially whiter than white, we might be in a better position with the press and legal system. I'd also like to see more obvious action being taken against people who break the VCRA, simply as a deterrent (I know it doesn't always work, well it pretty much never works but at least it might make the average person think). As a law abiding citizen I can't see the problem with the full weight of the legal system being brought to anyone who would jeopardise my hobby.

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I think that's a very optimistic way of looking at how the press would potentially run with that kind of story...

scenario: Kid is sold RIF/IF illegally and it is brought to the attention of the authorities and press by their local airsoft site...

possibility a: Retailer/individual who sold it is arrested by the police for breach of the VCRA and we get our first 'test trial' enforcing or not enforcing the skirmishers defence, a precedent has now been set and all future cases will be weighed with that, the CPS will also have a proven conviction for this sort of thing and will be able to push cases to court in future. Depending on how the trial goes, and press involvement, the skirmisher's defence may be revoked/altered and our sport could be in jeopardy. Press get hold of it and the Daily Wail jumps all over the panic wagon "Lincolnshire man sentenced to five years prison for selling assault rifle to 14 year old boy! Experts suggest that 'so called airsoft' guns can be easily converted to live firearms!".

 

possibility b: Police involvement is minimal, they can't get a conviction due to lack of material evidence so nothing happens. Possibility the press get a hold of it and before you know it the Daily Wail is reporting that Space Pakis on benefits bought airsoft M16s online easily and used them to shoot Princess Diana's driver in the eye.

 

 

See what I mean... give a tabloid journalist an inch and they'll take your self respect and rape you with a pineapple. Not only that, the police aren't interested, if they were then all the market stalls selling RIFs and suchlike would get shut down, but they don't.

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as individuals we should be careful ourselves in whom we pass on our guns to, all that would be worth as a penalty though would be a fine for individuals realistically. retailers would be the ones that would be main target though, selling to under 18/ to unregistered etc.would be nice to know who we are supposed to report any such to...

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I think that the main problem we face in trying to be responsible about the proliferation of the types of BB guns we use is that the VCRA is not merely bad law, but actually so bad that it is probably illegal! Be that last as it may, there is far too much vagueness in it. There are no definitions given in the specified defences and insufficient clarity in defining two-toning, to name just two glaring examples.

 

From a personal perspective, although I naturally would not advocate nor condone breaking the law as it seems to stand, I find the whole concept of two-toning so ridiculous, pointless, potentially counter-productive, and annoying that I will literally do nothing whatsoever to promote it and will continue to explain to airsofters, whom I know from their forum contributions either are or soon will be skirmishers, how they can legally use RIF's, whether they be 14 or 114.

 

I've never actually read that "Frank" website, so I cannot comment on whether its position on drugs is sufficiently unbiased that young people who have already said "yes" will not be put off and can obtain factual information free of moralising. Somehow I feel that the most sensible solution to the problem of children hurting themselves/others or being shot by the police due to BB guns, which clearly is to teach children how to handle them responsibly and the consequences of not doing so, is not going to gain any traction in today's UK. It's unfortunate, and maybe that is a direction in which efforts could be expended usefully, but reality being what it is, maybe something 'Frank-like' concerning weapons of various types, toys, and the difference between the two. would help...?

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I'm 31 and had trouble finding a site to sell me RIF's so I don't understand how these kids are managing it without a UKARA number.

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I'm 31 and had trouble finding a site to sell me RIF's so I don't understand how these kids are managing it without a UKARA number.

pretty easy to get on forums mate, plenty of people around that dont bother to check defenses, they just see quick and easy money.

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I did say my thought would probably be unpopular, and I know it is something that is probably unrealistic.

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@captainswoop If parents buy IFs or RIFs (if registered) and gift them to their kid then it's perfectly legal, providing that the child did not give the parent money for the purchase.

 

Ultimately it depends on the website the IF/RIF is being bought from. On some, the only defence against U18s buying IFs etc is a tick box stating that they are over 18 (*cough*cough*JustBBGuns*cough*cough*) whereas on other sites such as Crawley Surplus, you have to email them a scanned copy of your driving license or utility bills to prove that you are over 18.

If more sites implemented that system (which would admittedly be a pain, although it wouldn't really apply to buying a RIF) it would be much more secure and we wouldn't have problems with U18s buying things such as that.

 

With the knives point; quite a few sites don't put any restrictions on sales, including Leatherman and Gerber's official UK sales sites. You don't even have to provide proof of your age to place an order for a damn combat knife on them ffs!

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@captainswoop If parents buy IFs or RIFs (if registered) and gift them to their kid then it's perfectly legal, providing that the child did not give the parent money for the purchase.

I'm not certain that is actually true. I'm pretty sure that, legally speaking, money in a child's possession already belongs to the parent or legal guardian.

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to answere the OP's question "Is it too easy for under 18s to obtain IFs and RIFs?"

 

the answer is "its reasonably difficult", but if some one is that determined to get one, how can you stop them??

 

i determine "reasonably difficult" that a person cannot easly obtain a rif/if from a reputable seller etc

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I think that the main problem we face in trying to be responsible about the proliferation of the types of BB guns we use is that the VCRA is not merely bad law, but actually so bad that it is probably illegal! Be that last as it may, there is far too much vagueness in it. There are no definitions given in the specified defences and insufficient clarity in defining two-toning, to name just two glaring examples.

 

 

Absolutely spot on. Sadly, the UK seems to have a habit of framing crazy broad laws that somehow stand because they crush 'small fry' concerns and the pro-gun lobby, such as it is, was quite happy to see Airsofters go down the pan rather than stand together with them and fight it. If they would have tried this in the US, I'd be willing to bet that it would have been challenged and struck down in a court as being too vague and not defining what interest is being served by this law. What logic does it take to say that the item in question is not actually dangerous enough for its possession to be restricted, but it is dangerous enough to prohibit its transfer or manufacture? The airsoft community, as it was then, was severely aggrieved by this law which was supposedly targetting rogue market traders, and couldn't fight because it didn't have the funds (who has an extra 100k lying around?) to put a case forward.

 

Anyone over or under 18 who doesn't give a stuff about the law isn't going to find it particularly hard to get hold of a RIF. Those who are under 18 and are legitimate airsofters have found it vastly harder to get a RIF, so the situation is basically unchanged as far as the problem of irresponsible under 18s getting RIFs is concerned.

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TBH I don't want our sport to be associated with 'the gun lobby' because many of those people are barking. I'm totally unsure how much legal/campaign help our gun lobby receives from the USA. I would hope none whatsoever, but I fear that is not the case, and help buys influence.

 

The NRA's politics are irreconcilable with civilisation in a modern world. US xtianity, in many forms not merely the obvious evangelical loons, is a powerful retarding force on civilisation outside as well as inside the USA simply because they definitely do 'help' groups and individuals with whom they can find some common ground. There is quite a fertile crossover between the two and also with the ultra-conservative Tea Party, the majority of whom espouse political views based on ideologies so far abstracted from measured phenomena that they are indistinguishable from religion.

 

It's not just that I want nothing to do with these people, I fear that any perception in the UK that UK airsoft has links with them will not merely do us no favours at all, but convince many that, whilst there's nothing they can do about mental yanks, they can and should make sure that the 'same lunacy' gets a tougher time here.

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I'd agree that there are plenty of nuts out there in the US who attract all the attention, but it divides once again into the sensible, silent majority and the crazy 'wouldn't the world be nicer if everyone had a machine gun with UGL' advocates. After Sandy Hook there was plenty of crazy talk about sending in armed guards to monitor classrooms which I found abhorrent. However, in terms of support for promoting the sport of shooting, gun safety and knowledge, and making sure that people who possess a gun (live, imitation, deactivated) are not automatically viewed and treated as borderline criminal suspects, they are absolutely spot on.

 

The UK doesn't have a gun lobby as such, and every shooting or countryside organisation encourages a view that guns are only necessary as a means to an end other than enjoyment. Culturally, speaking, you can own a gun because you need to hunt vermin or control wildlife populations. You can own a gun because you are a competitive shooter following a discipline. You can own a gun because you are doing historical or academic research. You can just about own a gun because you are building a collection, but it is generally frowned upon and you should keep quiet about it. You can't own a gun because you like guns or have an interest in guns. You mustn't aspire to own a gun that looks like an existing live firearm if you want to shoot people with it. This is where airsoft falling through the gaps in the UK, and because airsoft doesn't check any boxes for cultural respectability, it is borderline criminalised. VCR is bad law because there isn't enough hard evidence to show that possession of airsoft RIFs is in and of itself harmful (threatening someone with any RIF is a criminal act in its own right), but it is trying to legislate a cultural norm.

 

The NRA in the UK is nothing like the NRA in the US. It is an administrative body for administering the mechanics of shooting sports, e.g. running courses and qualifications, competitions and open days. It barely registers as a lobbying interest in comparison to BASC, and I can't remember when it last produced a coherent answer on a current political discussion. As far as gun lobbies go in the UK, they broadly follow the cultural norms set out as above, which is why there isn't any danger that airsoft will be swept up in a US style gun lobby, and why airsoft is already a sacrificial lamb.

 

(Sorry for going off topic)

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@JoW.: I don't think what you wrote is off topic; the culture into which any IF's and/or RIF's proliferate is surely as much the topic as how they become available etc. when discussing whether it is too easy for kids to get hold of them?

 

I agree with much of your last, but I think I'd be far happier if the genpop understood what we do as a game and that our "guns" are actually toys, or that we could talk about them as 'sporting equipment' without any connection to 'country sports'. I mean a cricket ball could have your eye out, a hockey puck will often leave a decent bruise, various clubs, bats, sticks, etc. can be and are lethal to adults nevermind children...

 

The point which I intended to make in the Fiona Phillips is a crap journalist thread, but couched very badly, is that there are many things which people do for fun the equipment for which when used irresponsibly, or simply through accidents, can cause severe injury or death to children, but which we nevertheless see no need to restrict, or if we do, nowhere near as much as airsoft guns. Instead, legally, we rely on the much vaunted but more often than not warped, stunted, or almost entirely absent common sense of parents to maintain whatever control is thought necessary over the use of such equipment. Practically it is actually down to children themselves to understand that their impulse to mess about with stuff has to have limits, because otherwise, even if somebody doesn't get hurt, there will be trouble...

 

It is only the perceived connection between our toys and the guns they resemble which makes this any kind of controversial issue at all, but in truth there isn't even a realistic similarity between air weapons and airsoft guns, let alone assault weapons!

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The problem any gun-related object is going to pose is that there is no sane way a civilised society can fully 'normalise' guns into the culture so that people would be comfortable with 'everybody' owning one in the same way 'everybody' can own a car. Even a semi-realistic toy is more capable of looking threatening than a cricket bat, even if the cricket bat would cause more actual damage when used as a weapon. Without an assertive pushing of the positive aspects of gun ownership like knowledge, safety and responsibility (as the US NRA do), the negatives will always prevail (gangster violence, assassinations, civil war atrocities on the news). That is the situation that prevails here, so the general population will only be willing to contemplate guns as a necessary evil for the sporting or countryside maintenance reasons above. To say that you enjoy running around in the woods or in a converted building shooting at people with realistic imitations of live firearms is to invite ridicule or concerns about psychopathy from the general population.

 

Rationalising airsofters' use of RIFs from the perspective of harm is like talking to a brick wall because our current culture does not allow for a positive view of guns. I do deeply respect the time and effort that was put in to argue the need for a defence against VCR for airsofters, but the model used and accepted by legislators was for martial arts clubs, equating the airsoft gun with martial arts training weapons. My preference would have been modelling airsoft as re-enactment (we were in contact with Vietnam re-enactors using airsoft XM177s alongside M16 blank firers at Kirby Hall back when Kirby Hall multi-period re-enactment was still being run by English Heritage) or as a form of LARP. To me, an airsoft gun is no more harmful as a weapon as a LARP hammer, and much less so than firearms held by WW2 re-enactors or steel combat blunts in medieval re-enactment. The burden of qualifying as a re-enactor or LARPer is much less than qualifying as a member of a sporting organisation, and would have been less restrictive in terms of getting potential airsofters the airsoft guns they need.

 

Coincidentally, when you are trying to qualify for a Firearms Certificate, it is always helpful to avoid the use of the word weapon whenever referring to a firearm. So you see, the same cultural imperatives apply whether trying to acquire live firearms or airsoft replicas.

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I agree with much of your last, but I think I'd be far happier if the genpop understood what we do as a game and that our "guns" are actually toys, or that we could talk about them as 'sporting equipment' without any connection to 'country sports'. I mean a cricket ball could have your eye out, a hockey puck will often leave a decent bruise, various clubs, bats, sticks, etc. can be and are lethal to adults nevermind children...

 

 

I actually remember on the news someone got killed by a cricket ball, hit in the temple

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If cricket can directly result in death when airsoft can't (technically death by armed police is indirect) then by the VCRA's logic, the sale of cricket equipment should be closely controlled, and anyone who doesn't have a UKCRA registration needs to have their bats painted a bright colour by retailers, so passers by are warned of the presence of high velocity cricket balls by a bright orange length of wood.

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I take your point, JoW., however Switzerland seems pretty sane and it's the law there that every male keeps a rifle. Gun ownership per capita in Canada is way higher than in the USA, yet gun related deaths and specifically murder rates are way lower. The number of murders per capita per year is an order of magnitude higher in the USA than any other country which has a functional government able to keep the requisite records. The same stat for the UK is pretty high also, I'm not certain but I think the highest in Europe.

 

My point here is that there do appear to be "sane way a civilised society can fully 'normalise' guns into the culture so that people [are] comfortable with 'everybody' owning one in the same way 'everybody' can own a car [the ownership and use of which is subject to taxation, education, legal status, insurance, etc]." The question then becomes 'what is so insane about the USA and UK that not merely actual firearms cannot be normalised, but neither can toys which resemble them, even though they are less dangerous than than the majority of sports equipment which is normalised...?'

 

If we want the genpop to accept our hobby/sport and its equipment, we must sever the perceived link between airsoft guns designed to shoot plastic BB's and air weapons designed to fire metal BB's or firearms. One obvious way to start this process is to stop referring to them as "guns". A paintball 'gun' is a "marker". What about 'tagger' for our equipment?

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If we want the genpop to accept our hobby/sport and its equipment, we must sever the perceived link between airsoft guns designed to shoot plastic BB's and air weapons designed to fire metal BB's or firearms. One obvious way to start this process is to stop referring to them as "guns". A paintball 'gun' is a "marker". What about 'tagger' for our equipment?

 

I always thought this was a bit disingenuous to it's actual purpose. It makes me think of a felt tip pen or a label machine. Hopefully knowledge and not wording is the key to people understanding what airsoft is really about. Perhaps this is what it has come to when a lot of recent laws passed feel like MPs thinking snapping their fingers and creating a new law will resolve a perceived problem?

 

Gun crime, realistically is a complex social issue. Switzerland for instance has a notoriously high gun ownership level whilst maintaining a low level of gun crime.

 

Also out of interest are paintball guns that would constitute what we would call RIFs harder to obtain that airsoft guns?

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