- Sean Arbuthnot
Responding to Liberals in Support of Bill C-21
Thank you for coming to this article. If you're here, you might be an airsofter attempting to discuss Bill C-21 with your MP. Or you may be an MP looking to better understand your constituents concerns around Bill C-21 and airsoft. Either way, we're glad you're here. Thank you for taking a few minutes to educate yourself.
Bill C-21 spells the end of the sport of airsoft in Canada. However, many of the initial comments made by Liberal MPs suggest they may not fully understand what airsoft is or how the bill actually impacts our sport. We've collected some of the standard language used by MPs and provided details around why there are issues with their responses.
replica firearms can be converted into deadly weapons
STATUS: MISLEADING AND INACCURATE
It is more accurate to say that components of airsoft devices can be used on real firearms, and that virtually all airsoft devices cannot withstand the forces generated by real ammunition.
Firstly, airsoft devices are made of plastic and soft metals. These materials are not designed to stand up to the forces of a real firearm. Below you can see how the plastic or metal shells fail when simply mishandled or dropped.
Second, these shells most often contain a mechanism for managing compressed air, or a mechanical gearbox to force a BB out the barrel. The shells cannot hold the components necessary to fire real ammunition. The images below demonstrate the internal components of most airsoft toys.
Third, there have been cases where real firearms have used airsoft components. However, these components are the non-functioning portions of the firearm, such as grips or small pins. In one known case, a firearms scientist with access to a full machine shop was able to modify a device to fire a single round. However this process took several hours, while actual firearms manufacturer Dimaco stated it takes them 12 minutes to machine the same part from a raw block of steel, indicating it's easier to start from scratch than modify a toy. Below is an image of what airsoft part could be used on a real pistol (marked with green checkmarks). Most notably it excludes the actual components to load and fire a bullet.
It is very important to note that in Japan; the country where airsoft was invented and is still played today - a strict firearms prohibition is in place. Because of this, police maintain special officers to review new models of airsoft toys to ENSURE they cannot be converted to fire real bullets.
Bill C-21 proposes to group ALL airsoft devices into this category and end the sport and industry in Canada, instead of directing legislation at the one-in-a-thousand models that could even potentially be modified.
replica firearms can BE MISTAKEN FOR DEADLY WEAPONS
STATUS: TRUE, BUT WITH CAVEATS
There is no denying that most airsoft models resemble real firearms. This is why Bill C-21 is of such great concern to the industry. The proposed changes to the criminal code sections 84(1) and 84(3.2) would make any of these toys into prohibited devices. That said, the author of this post has been held at gunpoint by police officers for having a camera tripod on his back after someone reported it as a firearm.
First, it's important to understand that airsoft is NOT dangerous. It is used to play a game exactly like paintball, and is designed to operate at safe velocities. The only serious injuries that can occur are to the eyes. Like paintball, eye protection is required to play these games.
Where the airsoft community is united is addressing 'Accidental Misuse' and 'Intentional Misuse'. Intentional misuse is where an individual uses the toy in the commission of a crime in place of an actually dangerous item such as a real firearm, knife, or bat. Accidental misuse occurs when someone not educated about the risks of these devices proceeds to carry or play with one in public. Either of these scenarios can result in tragic accidents as police MUST respond to all gun calls (firearm, airsoft, or camera tripod) as if they were real.
The airsoft community has many proposals in place to address these issues, including standardizing 18+ for purchase across the country (it isn't today) and waivers/education documentation at point of sale to inform the new owner or users of the risks and appropriate transportation procedures. More detailed measures such as a self governing body that ensures purchasers are members of airsoft clubs (similar to how the UK deals with airsoft today) are options as well. Colouration of the devices is possible to allow easier identification for law enforcement.
The community is asking the government to consider these measures over a universal ban that treats airsoft more harshly than the UK, New Zealand, and almost all of Europe.
Air guns that do not exactly replicate an existing firearm will not be prohibited // COLOURED DEVICES WILL NOT BE PROHIBITED
STATUS: MISLEADING and UNCLEAR
The exact wording of section 84(1) from the bill is:
replica firearm means any device that is designed or intended to exactly resemble, or to resemble with near precision, a firearm that is designed or adapted to discharge a shot, bullet or other projectile at a muzzle velocity exceeding 152.4 m per second and at a muzzle energy exceeding 5.7 Joules, and that itself is not a firearm
Presumably, this means anything that isn't a firearm, that looks just like a real firearm would be considered prohibited.
The first issue is what does 'Exactly Resemble' or 'Resemble with Near Precision' really mean? What criteria or measures are in place to make that determination? Without a clear definition, businesses aren't sure what products they'd be able to import. No sound business model operates with millions of dollars worth of product left to the interpretation of ambiguous rules.
Second, this rule starts to capture some absurd devices. An excellent example is a Nerf Gun. The 'Pulse Rifle' is a fictional weapon from the Alien movie franchise. Hasbro has created a Nerf foam dart replica of this device. However, an American individual created his own replica of the Pulse Rifle that fires real bullets. By the definition above, this would indicate the Nerf foam dart gun is a prohibited device.
It's worth noting that people will claim the coloration of the Nerf gun would mean it does not 'Resemble with Near Precision' the real firearm. Unfortunately, Bill C-21 does not indicate that. No where in the language does it say colouring is an acceptable differentiation. Insisting that it is would be misleading at best, and false at worst. Those supporting a coloured solution OR further defining 'resemble with near precision' would have to be in support of an amendment to C-21 to ensure it was clearly defined.
Bill C-21 does not ban the sport of airsoft // Current users are not affected
While Bill C-21 specifically targets the "importation, sale, and transfer" of airsoft devices, it is effectively the death of the sport in Canada.
Firstly, all retail shops selling these products would be terminally impacted. With over 50% of their revenue tied to sales of the toys and existing inventory becoming an unmovable liability, there would be little recourse for them but to close.
Second, like all sports, airsoft relies on new players to discover and participate in the sport. That would become impossible as they would be unable to purchase a device.
Third, as demonstrated in a previous section, airsoft blasters are relatively fragile. Players required both replacement parts and new devices as old ones break down. Those individuals would be unable to obtain new devices, and the ability to import repair parts for newly 'prohibited devices' would be questionable.
If the government sees value in a $200 million + industry that contributes $53.8 million to tourism, and $52.4 million to Canadian small businesses every year, an amendment must be made to allow the sport to continue.
The Airsoft Industry Is Completely Against ALL of Bill C-21
Airsoft players are an extremely diverse group. Among them are voters for all political parties, genders, cultures, religions, and identities. There are small business owners, veterans, white- and blue-collar workers.
Many elements of C-21 are supported by the community such as providing additional resources to Nuclear Security teams and measures to prevent domestic abuse. However, while the vast majority of players are NOT firearms owners, some are greatly concerned with the restrictions placed on lawful firearms owners. That said, airsofters do have one common belief: This bill should not be prohibiting the import, sale, and transfer of airsoft devices.
As a voice for a diverse group of people, ASIC cannot speak for all their interests or demand full scale changes to C-21. Instead, we're targeting changes in the sections that we know are terminal for our sport. Mainly Sections 84(1), 84(3.2) and 117.3.
ASIC does not have the authority to speak for the firearms community, nor are many of the impacts of the bill applicable to airsoft. We'd ask you listen closely to the concerns of individual firearms owners because they too will suffer greatly from an unchanged bill C-21.
We appreciate you taking the time to see how the responses provided by some Liberal MPs leave us with more questions. Hopefully this article allows you to open up further dialogue about the challenges Bill C-21 poses to airsoft and leads to real solutions for our sport.