An amendment put forth by California state Sen. Kevin De León seeks to increase legislation governing airsoft guns to exterminate the industry in the state. Using the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez as political ammo, SB199 seeks to classify any airsoft gun that is not painted in a garish assortment of colors or is transparent in nature as a “replica firearm,” even though federal regulations already require mock weapons to have the end of the barrel painted red so that they are not mistaken for real guns.
The amendment to Section 16700 of the Penal Code states: “a. “Imitation firearm” means any BB device, toy gun, replica of a firearm, or other device that so substantially similar in coloration and overall appearance to an existing firearm as to lead a reasonable person to perceive that the device is a firearm.”
The second “b. As used in Section 20165, “imitation firearm” does not include any of the following:
1. A nonfiring collector’s replica that is historically significant, and is offered for sale in conjunction with a wall plaque or presentation case.
2. A spot marker gun which expels a projectile that is greater than 10mm caliber.
3. A device where the entire exterior surface of the device is white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink, or bright purple, either singly or as the predominant color in combination with other colors in any pattern, or where the entire device is constructed of transparent or translucent materials which permits unmistakable observation of the device’s complete contents.”
There is also an amendment to Section 16250 of the Penal Code which states: “ As an amendment to Section 16250 of the Penal Code, a “BB device” means any instrument that expels a projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, through the force of air pressure, gas pressure, or spring action, or any spot marker gun.”
These combination of these three amendments, if they were to pass, would crush the thriving airsoft community in California overnight. SoCal airsoft has been a staple of the US airsoft scene for decades and fueled the growth of airsoft across the country. The legislation is drawing international attention as well. A major airsoft retailer in Hong Kong has come out in support of the “No on SB199″ campaign, going so far as to publish contact details for California Sate Senators offices on Facebook and urging people to lobby against the legislation say ing “SB 199 will kill airsoft in all of California… CALL your representatives and voice your opinions. STOP SB 199 and Save Our Sport. Call one of your representatives below.”
Airsoft originated in Japan and is similar to paintball. However, unlike paintball, the weapons fire 6 millimeter pellets. The guns, which can be powered by either compressed gas, hand cycled springs or miniature gearboxes which are capable of fully automatic fire, are used in military simulation wargames and also in competitive shooting events. Highly organized national and international multi-day games have included tracked vehicles, helicopters and several hundred players. Unlike the cheap BB guns sold in Walmart, the highly customized guns and guns carried at these events by competitors can cost of in the high four figures. Competition handguns for Airsoft IPSC can cost nearly three thousand dollars a piece.
Airsofters often take their simulation to great lengths with stress being placed on realism. Players often compete to customize their uniforms make them as realistic as possible, with some players going so far as to acquire night vision, body armor and high value optical gunsights to model themselves after modern day special operations teams.
Full Disclosure: The author is a longtime airsofter.