Airsoft and the ATF

This has made both local and national news of late, and is especially of interest to those of us who prize high end blowback airsoft replicas specifically for their realism when used as props.

It does sounds like a case of just an overzealous and incompetent ATF agent- perhaps evidenced by his attempt to load the M4 magazine backwards in the video, or by the writeup here at CleanUpATF.org.

Still, this is noteworthy for a number of reasons:

  • Possible seizure of some Airsoft replicas
  • Generally increased government attention to these replicas
  • Movement to form an airsoft industry association or other reactions to this
  • Evidence of what seems to be an example of the routine lack of awareness of laws even amongst the government agency in charge of them, let alone from local law enforcement.
  • Example of questionable status translating to seizure rather than benefit of the doubt going to citizens or businesses.

In other words, watch out, know the laws yourself, and be prepared to speak intelligently and confidently about them if/when questioned on a set, while transporting props, etc.  Obviously that can be a challenge when the ATF itself is often inconsistent, and refuses to share information without being legally forced to (again as demonstrated by the video above, refusing to share information without a Freedom of Information Act request being lodged), but as much as we can, those of us who use these things need to be able to quickly demonstrate how and why these are props, toys, or training devices and not firearms, legally or practically.

Note also how quick the agent is to change topic from any actual threat or lawbreaking to his caution on the inherent danger in walking outside with a realistic replica gun.  At about $380 each (and yes, they are currently available elsewhere, but that’s beyond my price range sadly), the model they seized is not going to be some teenager’s backyard plaything; it’s most likely to appear on dedicated airsoft/paintball fields, police/military/private security training areas, etc., but I get the clear impression that they’re just trying to make an example or send a message.

Initial follow up here:

I’ll be sad if this translates to an unwillingness to import legal replicas to the US for fear of harassment by the BATF or other agencies, which seems a more likely outcome than actual banning, as I highly doubt the claims that this is readily modified in to an actual, military-grade firearm.

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