Airsoft guns – air-powered replicas that fire plastic pellets – are a hobby for some and a business for others, but Canada’s gun bill could put an end to both.
Bill C-21, as originally drafted, was intended to ban handguns. Now Ottawa says the ban could apply to the import, export and sale of unregulated replicas that resemble modern firearms.
Ken Cheung, owner of 007 Airsoft in Calgary, said many of the products at his store, which he’s operated for 25 years, would be considered too realistic under the law if the bill passed. Cheung’s company also supplies prop guns for the film industry, most recently the film shot in Alberta. The last of us.
“If the bill passes as is, it would mean the end of airsoft,” he said.
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“If my business is over, then my livelihood is over because that’s what I’ve been doing for many, many years. That’s how I support my family. It’s a hard pill to swallow,” said he declared.
Cheung said it had been an agonizing wait to get clarity on the situation — to find out what type of airsoft guns, if any, would be exempt under the bill.
“There are, for example, sci-fi weapons from anime, manga or movies…these weapons would theoretically be exempt,” he said.
“However, they still look more or less like a real gun, so it’s very difficult to draw a line. They should give us a very clear direction of what is acceptable and what is not.”
Audrey Champoux, public safety minister Marco Mendicino’s press secretary, said in an email that since the bill was introduced last spring, Ottawa has been struggling to find a solution that works.
“Bill C-21 is Canada’s most significant action against gun violence in a generation,” Champoux wrote.
“While Bill C-21 is currently under consideration[ed] in committee, we hope that all parties will agree to fill the loophole in the Criminal Code regarding replica firearms. »
Champoux added that Ottawa wants to ensure that the ban on importing, exporting and selling applies to all unregulated replicas that resemble modern firearms.
Cheung said airsoft’s popularity has taken off in Canada – and some airsoft players fear the federal gun ban will signal the end of their hobby.
“Gun control is a necessary thing, but you have to control when it’s too much,” said Calgary airsoft enthusiast Connor Parnham. “Something like that fires harmless plastic BBs. These things weigh no more than 0.20 grams, so they don’t hurt for long if they hurt at all.”
Replica guns look like real things, says police chief
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray, who co-chairs the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s Special Firearms Committee, said about 20 per cent of violent gun crime in Canada is committed with replica firearms. Airsoft is part of this group of replicas.
He added that airsoft guns can be modified to act like real guns.
“They create danger, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
He said the danger does not come from the velocity of the projectile fired from the gun, but from how the guns can be presented as real.
“That, in a nutshell, is the problem we have with airsoft guns or pistols of any kind that look so real they’re indistinguishable…and the consequences this has in our community.”
He added that in tests at police departments across the country, many officers have trouble telling the difference between an airsoft gun and a real gun without picking it up.
“It’s in a controlled environment. Think what it’s like in a house where this gun is fired at them or someone presents this gun as a real weapon. These officers in an often dimly lit room make a quick decision in a split second,” he said.
He said the association of police chiefs had lobbied the government to change the appearance of replica guns so they could be distinguished from real guns, and also lobbied to include more powerful airsoft guns as guns.
“I think there are some things that we pushed for that would still allow people to participate in sport, but could eliminate this immediate threat that is happening in our communities.”
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