1 Sep 2016 – The Earl of Shrewsbury, president of the Gun Trade Association, has tabled a Parliamentary amendment which would delete the vital legal exemption that protects airsofters from firearms laws.
Lord Shrewsbury’s proposed amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill 2016 would delete the proposed exemption for airsofters from the Firearms Acts, meaning any automatic airsoft gun developing a muzzle energy greater than 1 joule would be treated in the same way as, say, a 20mm belt-fed anti-aircraft cannon.
Airsoft guns fire 6mm plastic BBs at low muzzle energies. They are used by airsofters to recreate military or law enforcement scenarios for fun, in the same way as paintball. While some shooters look down on airsofters as cranks or Walter Mitty types, ultimately they are harmless characters peacefully doing their own thing.
The amendment, which can be viewed on the Parliament website here (PDF), was tabled in late July. It should be read in conjunction with the full draft Bill as presented to the Lords, which is here (PDF). It deletes what should become section 57A of the Firearms Act 1968, which explicitly permits airsoft guns to have muzzle energies of up to 2.5 joules, or 1.3 joules for automatic airsoft guns without being subject to firearms laws.
These limits were set on the basis of the only controlled trials carried out into BB gun lethality, which were done by the police body formerly known as ACPO. The Policing and Crime Bill contains separate provisions which state that firearms laws will apply to all barrelled items developing a muzzle energy of greater than 1 joule, as no lower limit is currently defined by law.
Without the amendment, tens of thousands of airsofters will become criminals in possession of section 5 firearms. As every shooter knows, breaches of section 5 are almost all strict liability criminal offences which carry an automatic five year prison sentence.
UK Shooting News first spotted this perplexing development on the UK Airsoft Players Union website and has independently cross-referenced Lord Shrewsbury’s amendment to ensure it refers to the same thing as the airsofters say.
“This is a replication of the attack we faced earlier in the year from the Gun Control Network, working through Lynn Brown MP,” wrote the UKAPU’s Matt Furey-King. He later floated the idea of airsoft shops – many of which are members of the GTA – boycotting the association, though the impact of this is not immediately obvious.
There is nothing on the GTA website, or on the website of the UK Airsoft Retailers’ Association, regarding the amendment. From the very limited information available, it appears Lord Shrewsbury is acting without provocation.
The Gun Trade Association has been emailed to request a comment and UKSN will publish it if they respond.
It is bad enough that the licensed firearms community spends most of its time attacking itself, but lashing out at others who got their act together to ensure the House of Commons protected them from the latest restrictions foisted on lawful shooters is utterly inexcusable behaviour. Lord Shrewsbury must withdraw his amendment and publicly explain himself.
That a former president of the BSSC, the umbrella group which monitors legislative and police developments on all our behalf, is actively trying to impose unnecessary restrictions on other people who use “guns”, however loosely described, will worry every firearm and shotgun certificate holder in the land. If he will turn on airsofters, who have already secured MPs’ consent for an exemption, who is to say what group of shooters he will lash out at next?
Note: an earlier version of this article stated Lord Shrewsbury is the president of the BSSC. This was based on his register of interests in Parliament. It appears that is out of date.