There are growing calls from the airsoft industry to reverse the new federal gun bill, which some say unfairly targets a safe sport.
Bill C-21 includes a section to ensure mid-velocity ‘replica’ firearms, including unregulated airguns, are prohibited for the purposes of import, export, sale and transfer.
Most airsoft guns, which are essentially toy guns that shoot plastic BBs, are replica firearms.
Daniel Gustowski, who is representing Manitoba in a national effort to fight the bill, said the bill could cost jobs across Canada.
“It would end hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs across the country,” he said.
Gustowski is often part of regular airsoft games in Manitoba, which he describes as playing a real life video game.
He said the sport is safe and has a passionate fan base.
“We want to save our sport,” he said. “We use what looks like real guns but at the very end of it, they’re just toys … the worst you’ll get is a little red mark on your skin at the end of the day that goes away after a couple days.”
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Last week, Winnipeg police chased down a man who was believed to be armed with a gun, but police later discovered the suspect was carrying a replica.
A day after the incident, Const. Rob Carver spoke about how difficult it is for officers to determine whether or not a suspect is carrying a real or replica gun.
“There is simply no way to tell and the wrong decision will get somebody killed,” Carver said on Feb. 19, noting that some criminals have tried altering real guns to look like a toy.
Carver did not specifically comment on Bill C-21, but Winnipeg’s police chief recently tweeted about it.
“In 2020 WPS seized 215 replica guns that were used to commit crimes. Maybe Bill C-21 is onto something,” Smyth recently tweeted in a thread about replica guns.
In a statement to Global News, the Department of Justice said Bill C-21 proposes to close a gap in the law with respect to replica firearms.
“Currently, only guns that cannot cause serious bodily injury or death to a person (those that discharge a projectile at a velocity under approximately 366 fps (feet per second)), and that exactly resemble a conventional regulated firearm are prohibited for import/export or transfer (including sale) because they meet the Criminal Code definition of a “replica firearm,”” a spokesperson said.
“Despite posing the same public safety concerns, unregulated firearms, such as airguns, that discharge a projectile at a velocity approximately between 366 and 500 fps and exactly resemble conventional regulated firearms, are not currently prohibited.”
Airguns that do not exactly resemble a conventional regulated firearm would not be affected and current owners of replica airguns would be allowed to keep them, the department said.