23 May 2016 – The latest draft of the Policing and Crime Bill, currently before Parliament, reveals that airsoft has won all of its lobbying battles – including a raise in legally permitted muzzle energy levels.
Section 102 of the latest version of the bill – which is now nearing the end of its time in the House of Commons – will introduce a specific exemption for airsoft guns from firearms laws.
It will create a new section, section 57A, of the Firearms Act 1968. The key part of that new section reads:
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.
‘Small plastic missile’ is defined as “a missile that is made wholly or partly from plastics, and does not exceed 6 millimetres in diameter.” The permitted power levels will be:
(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.
This is a move back to the only properly researched figures on safe power levels for airsoft BBs, which was conducted on behalf of ACPO some years ago. Originally, in the first version of the Policing and Crime Bill, the power level was set at 1 joule across the board. At the time the government said this was to harmonise English law with that of Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the 1 joule figure for lethality was effectively plucked from thin air.
UK Shooting News believes airsoft has enjoyed this unalloyed victory because the UK Airsoft Retailers’ Association hired the former head of ACPO’s Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group, Adrian Whiting, as a consultant. As the man who decided what firearms laws the police would enforce and how they would interpret them, Whiting was the ultimate ace up the sleeve.
Real shooting, in contrast, is struggling to have its voice heard, as other posts on UKSN about the Policing and Crime Bill show.