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Baz JJ

VCRA 2006 - No Mention of Airsofting

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Looking through the wording of this, not somebody's interpretation, it doesn't actually mention airsofting at all.

 

How did we get from this document to the UKARA defence interpretation ?

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I think this covers a later amendment where although it still doesn't say Airsoft, it refers to permitted activities and military scenarios for recreation.

 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/2606/pdfs/uksi_20072606_en.pdf

 

So, if I read it correctly, the defence needed by Airsofters could be a photo membership card from an Airsoft group or club comprising of more than 2 persons and with third party public liability insurance.

 

Of course, retailers may not accept this, especially if you want to buy online.

 

So if we get back to the roots of the matter and ignore all the industry interpretations and people trying to sell solutions, what it comes down to is the following:

 

As the selling of RIFs is illegal unless you have a defence, you need to have a defence so the retailer will sell you your RIF in the first place. Do you need a defence if having bought your RIF, you are questioned by the police about their possession ?

 

If not, you only need a valid defence if you plan to buy more RIF ?

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Okay so that says

 

"For airsoft skirmishing, the Association of British Airsoft is putting in place arrangements to allow retailers to check that individual purchasers are members of a genuine skirmishing club or site. The key elements of these arrangements are:

 

new players must play at least 3three times in a period of not less than two months the two months before being offered membership

membership cards with a photograph and recognized format will be issued for production to retailers

 

a central database will be set up for retailers to cross-check a purchaser’s details

 

a member’s entry on the database will be deleted if unused for 12 months.

 

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".

 

It also says that this is purely for the benefit of retailers.

 

However, section 19(d) of the Firearms Act 1968 says it is an offence to carry an imitation firearm in public without reasonable excuse, so you need a defence to possess a RIF if you take it to skirmishes ?

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No, for over 18s:

 

- it is NOT illegal to own a RIF

- it is NOT illegal to buy a RIF

- it is NOT illegal to carry a RIF as long as you have a reasonable excuse (e.g. attending an airsoft event)

- it IS illegal to sell, manufacture or import a RIF (though you can avail yourself of a defence against prosecution if you can show that you did one of these things to provide the RIF for use at an airsoft event with third party liability insurance)

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OK.

 

So primarily, you need to have a defence to convince the retailer to sell to you.

 

Secondly, You may need some proof of your involvement with airsofting to convince a police officer that you have a reasonable excuse to carry in public.

 

On the first, it depends what the retailers collectively demand as reasonable. Up to now, its been a UKARA registration number. Unless the majority of retailers accept something else, then that is where it will stay. In many ways, any change or alternative registration method will have to be adopted by them for it to work.

 

Secondly, it might be obvious to the police if you are all cammed up and 200 yards from the entrance to a skirmish site, but if not, how do you easily prove this ? If you are walking down the street in street clothes with your RIF in a shoulder bag, how do you convince them ?

 

Site membership card with photo ID, signed log book of where you have played in the past ?

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I expect a phone call to the site operator would be a good place to start.

 

That said, ownership of a RIF is not a crime, nor is transporting one through a public place. The police really can't do anything about you having a RIF in a sealed bag unless they suspect you're going to use it for no good.

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Just to be clear, you (as a buyer) don't "need a defence," the person selling does; you need to be able to PROVIDE them with one. They're the one committing the crime, so they need the defence.

 

UKARA is popular with retailers as it saves them doing the legwork of checking whether you are really likely to use the RIF for airsoft purposes, which is what they need for their defence - the assumption is you must be if you've played at least three games in over two months and got onto their database.

 

As to the 'stopped by the police' scenario, you shouldn't really need a photo ID or any 'log' of anything. You should be able to tell them your name and where you're signed in to play. They then phone the site who confirm this and on you go. Though to be fair you might want to question why they stopped you in the first place - do you really need to be all cammed up and does your rifle bag have a big sticker on it that you got from the States that reads: 'Dont touch! Gun inside and I'm prepared to use it!' :)

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This is interesting

 

http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/replicaguns-parents.pdf

 

You could be stopped by the police for all kinds of reasons. I don't usually book in at sites in advance and you cant rely on the person answering the site phone to even know you. There have been a few cases recently where people (mainly re-enactment fans) have left RIF on show in cars etc and its caused quite a stir. The last guy that did that in Surrey got arrested and was only let out later. I appreciate that it might not be a legal requirement and you can be a barrack room lawyer with the police officer when you get stopped, but I would rather head off any potential conflict. Just occurs to me that some form of demonstrable defence would be a good idea. Databases don't help with this.

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I do see your point, but I think that, as you point out, trying to play lawyer with the police officer is going to have little to no effect if he thinks he's right to arrest you - I don't think pulling out a book with your handwritten record of when you've played this year will change much, and if a phone all to the site doesn't do the trick then a picture of your face on a card with the site's name and number on it isn't going to help either!

 

If someone is stupid enough to leave something that looks a lot like a gun lying around for the public to see or to be dressed like they're about to go on a shooting spree I actually hope the police do stop them and I wouldn't blame the police for locking them up for it for a while either!

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I agree.

 

I carry my RIF in gun cases and only carry them in the car i.e. in public when Im on my way to get them home from the shop, to the shop to get them fixed or on my way to and from a game.

 

However, although not infallible, a personalised membership card from a site or recognisable body will go some way to convince them that my story is genuine. It could make the difference between "on your way" and "lets sort it out down at the station".

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