There have been a number of unpleasant incidents involving airsoft guns in the past few years. In fact, the hasty shooting by the police which resulted in the death of an innocent civilian in a Washington locality is not unpleasant but shocking and condemnable. Schools have repeatedly punished kids for possessing or playing with airsoft guns and the police have harassed a number of times civilians for the same reason. These incidents, it can be safely concluded, sums up the authorities’ attitude towards airsoft guns. While the authorities’ intentions to make sure that nobody gets hurt is understandable, the panic and paranoia which defines their airsoft gun policy requires an immediate review.
What does the law say about airsoft guns?
Code of Federal Regulations on foreign commerce and trade’s title 15 state that "no person shall manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive any toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm" without approved distinguished markings such as an orange tip or brightly colored exterior of the toy. However, section 272.1 (formerly 1150.1) clearly exempts "traditional b-b, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of compressed air, compressed gas or mechanical spring action, or any combination thereof." So, airsoft guns are exempted from these restrictions. It is another matter that reputed airsoft gun manufacturers have been putting distinct markings such as bright orange tips on the pellets.
So why is the action different?
To put the law in another way, the airsoft guns are not considered normally capable of causing dangerous or fatal injuries unless, of course, someone really means to cause an injury and fires a shot from a close range. But reputed airsoft gun manufacturers have already been putting in best practices and instructions to use the guns. So, the airsoft companies have been doing their duties.
In this case, why do so much paranoia and panic define the actions of the police and the schools? In the Washington locality case, the police officer who shot the civilian admitted that no prior verification was carried out before shooting. No warning, no prior instructions to the unfortunate hapless victim who was merely installing the toy pistol in a car in the wee hours of the morning. The cop not only stands guilty for not following the manual but also for committing inhuman acts.
Probably, laziness and the tendency to generalize have been creeping in. Otherwise, what can define the hyperactivity of the police to catch people with airsoft guns? While the airsoft guns do look like original guns to a certain extent, many of these guns can be easily distinguished because of their bright-colored exterior. So, there has clearly been a tendency to put firearms and airsoft guns in the same category and so, it is not unnatural that airsoft guns have been inviting such stern actions. But laziness and generalization is clear from the actions – the cops do not want to go the extra mile of verifying whether the person possessing the gun has a firearm or not. There has not been any attempt to verify the intention beforehand.