On the 4th April A reporter contacted us via our No to Airgun Licensing in England & Wales campaign Facebook page in relation to an article she was producing for that weeks Sunday paper. She kindly supplied us with some information gleamed from freedom of information requests asked us for our comment regarding this and posed the following questions.
- A 9 year old was found in possession of a BB gun. How can this happen?
- Can our forces protect us?
Those of the team who were available discussed this at length and finally settled on the following reply which was submitted in time, but was not used in the finished article. Our response has also been posted on the Firearms UK Facebook page, where we encourage you to continue the discussion.
The majority of incidents involving airguns are the result of an unlawful minority who would seek ways around any legislation. Further restrictions such as licencing on low powered airguns are unnecessary and will disproportionately impact lawful owners.
The use, purchase and possession of airguns, BB guns and replicas have undergone significant legislative restrictions in recent years most notably in the 2006 Violent Crime Reduction (VCR) Act, which was further strengthened in 2007 by the Realistic Imitation Firearms Regulations. Unfortunately this legislative solution to addressing public concerns over the use of such items has only increased the complexity of the legislation and consequently has made it even easier for everyday people to fall foul of the law, with potentially severe consequences. Alongside, or alternatively to legislative changes tackling incidents involving airguns, BB guns and replicas we would encourage the adoption of education and public awareness schemes to make sure everyone who may purchase, use or sell such items are aware of their responsibilities and how any changes in legislation will impact them, we believe this will have a greater impact on reducing associated crime than further legislation.
Regarding young people and BB guns, under the VCR Act it is not an offense for someone such as a parent to give a BB gun to someone under the age of 18 as a gift or for an under 18 to borrow one and use it on private land for example in casual target shooting. Since 2007 to purchase and own a realistic BB gun you need to be a member of an insured skirmish site and own it for the purposes of “airsoft skirmishing”, BB guns sold to non-members have to be differentiated from realistic models which is typically done by them being sold in bright colours so they stand out as non-realistic. Offences of this nature can occur by parents not fully understanding the law, regarding their child having to keep their BB gun in their garden for example. Education at point of sale would be one way to reduce such incidents without impacting the many lawful owners. It is also noteworthy that BB guns most likely to fall into the hands of under 18’s will be of significantly reduced power compared to the more professional quality imitations that are used in the sport of airsoft, of which even these models are limited in power and only pose a risk to the eye area which is protected by compulsory PPE during skirmishes. The maximum industry-set limit for BB guns is 1.3 joules for full auto and 2.5 joules for single fire weapons (https://www.justbbguns.co.uk/), in contrast the maximum legal limit for air rifles before a firearms certificate, FAC is required is set at 16.25 joules, although the recommended limit for low powered air rifles is 15 joules (https://www.basc.org.uk/en/shooting/airgunning/air-rifles.cfm).
Firearms UK is an online campaign aiming to protect gun ownership for law abiding citizens in the UK and to encourage unity and positive action within the shooting community.