So there I was, researching a rumor and I been told from a reliable source regarding a recent ruling that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives (BATFE or just ATF) had allegedly just made or was going to make about two big-name Airsoft manufacturers, when I stumbled across some other items of interest relating to Airsoft Guns. I'm not going to regurgitate everything that I read from the ATF's official website, but I would urge you to take the time to educate yourself on both the Federal, State, and any Local laws that may apply to Airsoft guns. I did read, for those of you that were curious, that an Airsoft gun is NOT considered a "firearm" according to the ATF, as defined by the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA).
Here's a brief snippet about the matter taken from www.ATF.gov:
"The term “firearm” is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include '(A) any weapon (including a starter gun), which will, or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon….' Based on Section 921(a)(3), air guns, because they use compressed air and not an explosive to expel a projectile, do not constitute firearms under Federal law — unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm. Accordingly, the domestic sale and possession of air guns is normally unregulated under the Federal firearms laws enforced by ATF."
I put a few items in bold there for a reason. The first bold item, "or may be readily converted to" are six (6) words that I believe to be the foundation on which the ATF is using to justify the highly controversial WE M4 Gas Blowback Rifle seizure up in the Pacific Northwest that occurred last year or so and that has gained national media attention, most of which negative for our beloved hobby. Just Google "Airsoft M4 seizure" or something similar to that to get the full scoop on that fiasco. Anyway, just thought I'd point that out.
The next bold & italicized phrase is the one most relevant to this discussion. It says that "air guns," which would include Airsoft guns, do not constitute firearms under Federal law because they use compressed air, not an explosive like gun powder, to expel a projectile. However, it does implicate that if the air/Airsoft gun is manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm, then you've got an entirely different and dangerous story on your hands. This also has to do with being "readily converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive."
So, many of you might already know this, but I'm sure there are those, like myself, that had heard conflicting points of view on the matter from those claiming to be credible sources as to whether Airsoft guns were considered to be "firearms" or not according to Federal law.
One last item I'd like to highlight is what I read about suppressors on a Paintball gun. ATF Ruling 2005-4 should be read by anyone who uses a suppressor on their Airsoft gun. You need to be aware of this ruling. There is somewhat of a fine line between what the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the National Firearms Act each consider to be a "silencer" and what they do NOT consider to be a "silencer." Basically, if your Airsoft suppressor can silence, muffle, or diminish the muzzle report of a portable firearm, then by the ATF's standards, you've got yourself a "firearm silencer" or "firearm muffler," which makes it an "NFA weapon" subject to the rules & restrictions of the National Firearms Act.
Many of us overlook or ignore the gray area that our hobby sits in, when it comes to the laws, and therefore I thought I'd take a moment to remind those of you who think you are free to be oblivious that just because your Airsoft gun is a toy replica of the real thing, doesn't mean there's not a fine line between what is regulated and what is not. So pull your head out of the dark, foul-smelling place that it currently resides and educate yourself for your own protection and for the preservation of Airsoft for future generations.
***The stuff I wrote above is not intended to be "legal advice," but rather just "legal information" intended to let you know that Big Brother is always watching, so watch your step. Please consult with a competent attorney licensed by your state's bar association for the purposes of obtaining legal advice on this matter or any other matter that you wish to spend a fortune in retainer fees on.***