Paintball, airsoft fans want to negotiate after federal bill bans replica air rifles
MONTREAL -- To the naked eye, airsoft and paintball gun fans can look alarming -- some outfit themselves to look just like military squads with rifles.
But their weapons are just air guns. Now, however, those faux weapons are being targeted by Ottawa's new gun control legislation, and they say they're worried their favourite activity will be outlawed.
"It is just a game," said Nick Kanellopoulos, one hobbyist. "Yes, it does look like the real thing, but it is just a game, after all."
He's been playing the sport for six years and says he's part of a community of players who were shocked to hear that replica air guns will be included in Bill C-21, under a new definition of replica firearms.
If the look is the problem, they could just modify the replicas, he said. In California, for example, replicas must be marked with bright tape.
The Quebec Airsoft Federation says that could work here too.
"We are willing to do something to be sure that our airsoft is not scary for anybody," said Brian Durand of the organization.
The industry is no small matter, with the federation estimating that airsoft and paintball bring in over $10 million a year in Quebec.
Suppliers are concerned, too.
"What this means for me and any company that has an airsoft business is that all the inventory that we have, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, are going to be annihilated," said one store owner.
They want the federal government to consult with key players in their industry, to start working on a solution and, ideally, to be reassured their hobby is safe, they say.
In a statement, the Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said the legislation is "seeking only to end the proliferation, importation, export or sale of those replica firearms that closely resemble regulated firearms and discharge projectiles at a dangerous velocity."
It added that it was the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police that called on the government to close the loophole on the sale and importation of replica firearms.
"In their opinion, these can either be mistaken for, or converted into deadly weapons, and have been used in crimes which compromise the safety of the Canadian public," the statement reads.
The office clarified that the legislation will not impact any activities by "law-abiding owners and sport shooters and it will remain legal to possess and use these types of firearms for designated purposes."
Air guns that do not exactly replicate an existing firearm are not prohibited, it said.