'It likely means the end of airsoft as a sport': Hobby under threat by new Canadian gun bill
VICTORIA -- The Federal Government is now moving ahead with Bill C-21, which will ban the use, sale and importation of more than 1,500 makes and models of assault-style weapons.
“There is no need for military style assault weapons anywhere in this country,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Jan. 16.
The airsoft community, that uses low power guns that fire lightweight plastic pellets to play organized games, is now finding itself in the government's crosshairs.
Rick Rutherford is the secretary treasurer of the Airsoft Discipline at the Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association.
“The short story for the community is, it likely means the end of airsoft as a sport,” said Rutherford.
Replica airguns and many paintball guns will be banned under the bill because they fall under the new definition of replica firearms.
“Almost all air guns, airsoft guns included, will be caught up by this change in definition of a replica,” said Rutherford. “Anything that resembles a firearm that is produced and licensed, what most of us would call a real firearm, will become prohibited under this law.”
The move is essentially wiping out a hobby for thousands of people across Canada.
“I have a job. It’s my hobby and I make a living on it,” said Ken Kao, owner of Trigger Airsoft in Richmond, B.C. “(It's to support) my family and right now the government wants to take this away.”
Kao estimates there are between 50 to 80 retail outlets across Canada that strictly sell airsoft guns and accessories, like his business.
“So that’s why if C-21 gets passed, the impact to us is going to be – we’ll have to shut down the store and have to find another solution to make a living,” said Kao.
“(There are) 800 to 1,000 employees. It’s really going to have an impact if they pass C-21, they are going lose their jobs,” he said.
The problem with airsoft guns is their realistic look. The Quebec Airsoft Federation says they would be happy to work with government to implement rules like the one in California, which require airsoft guns to be marked with bright colours on their barrels.
“We are willing to do something to be sure that our airsoft is not scary for anybody,” said Brian Durand with the Quebec Airsoft Federation.
Under the proposed bill, the Federal Government will be initiating a buy-back program on assault-style weapons. So far, there is no word if this offer will be made to the airsoft community.
“There has been no mention of a buy-back,” said Rutherford. “Which is even adding insult to injury.”
The airsoft community says it has not been consulted on Bill C-21 and would welcome the chance to make its point to the Federal Government because they say their hobby is a safe one.