Friday, June 22, 2007

Airsoft Guns in Massachusetts

They're so realistic, the U.S. military uses them for simulation training, but they're all the rage during adolescent play.

Toy guns that are marketed to "make you feel like you're 'packing' the real thing," airsoft guns are also fast becoming a problem - actually mistaken for the real thing - and have many fearing big problems could follow these small-pellet shooting guns.
"There is certainly the potential for danger," said Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. "There are several airsoft guns on store shelves. Some of (them) look like real guns, and those are the ones that concern us a great deal."

Airsoft guns are BB-style toy guns that use plastic pellets actually much larger - so less likely to break skin upon impact - than regular BBs. They're sold, over the Internet and in retail stores in some states, in many models, including pistols and rifles, that look just like the real thing.

They're toys, but they're illegal for purchase to anyone under 18, and regularly are sold to law enforcement agencies and the military for training because of their realism.

No one is denying that appeal.

"I think one of the selling points definitely is that it's very realistic," said Kent Woo, marketing director at, a California-based airsoft gun manufacturer. "You can't get away from that, it's one of the driving forces of the industry. It's obviously an attractive feature for younger users, but for more advanced users and in training scenarios. It's a double-edged sword."

Woo points out the relative safety of the guns, when used in proper play.

He said the pellets are four to five times larger than paint ball guns - which have caused their fair share of controversy - and the gun-pellet's weight density ratio makes it very difficult to break a certain firing speed.

Also, he said because consumers want to imitate realistic play, they often dress in full military ensemble, which protects skin. Airsoft gun companies also sell protective gear for users' faces and heads.

Most seem to agree that problems could arise when kids get the guns in their hands.

"Any time you have an instrument that has a projectile to it, there's that danger," Sampson said. "The younger they are, the more inclined they are to show them to their friends - and that's where accidents can happen."

North Attleboro resident Laurie Lawes became especially concerned after she noticed several young children in a relative's neighborhood starting to play with them.

A mom to two grown children, Lawes struggled when her then teenage son pleaded for, but was denied a paint ball gun. She said no - based on the potential for dangerous situations - and feels the same way about airsoft guns.

"It sounds like it's a toy, but it's not a toy," Lawes said. "You're talking about something that's going to hit you. What if they shoot it and there's a crowd, or they mistake me for one of their buddies? They could do bodily damage. It's an adult form of entertainment."

Lawes pleaded in an e-mail to The Sun Chronicle, for an open meeting between area towns to come together and make the public aware.

The problem, Sampson said, is that they are not illegal, though the state Attorney General's office last December filed suit against six out-of-state Internet retailers and one state store owner to halt sales to minors.

An alarming concern is when the toy guns are mistaken for the real thing in dangerous situations.

Last month, a Framingham teenager fleeing police tossed an airsoft gun on the ground during chase, and police thought it was an actual weapon. No one was injured.

Earlier this month, police nearly shot a teenage boy in California when they found him and two others playing with the toy guns on an elementary school playground, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Sampson wants to avoid similar instances, or worse.

"Some kids will get a hold of these or use them for an attempted robbery or that type of thing," he said. "Police will never know if there's a real gun there or not. Our training is to treat each of those situations like a deadly-force weapon."

Then, there are the psychological arguments.

Lawes fears that children who play with real-looking toy guns might start to appreciate the real thing.

Mitch Labrett, a criminal justice professor at Bridgewater State College, said the argument could go either way.

"A social psychologist would say that any behavior that could be looked upon as modeling after violence, that's not a good thing. Others would argue very vigorously against that," Labrett said. "Once they start turning up used in crimes, there will be a move to regulate them rather quickly."

Woo said there are as many measures as possible to keep the guns' sales and play safe.

Safety precautions are posted on his company's Web site, and they require credit cards for all purchases, which theoretically would rule out underage buyers. The company also randomly selects orders for phone confirmation, and does so for all large orders.

Realistically, he acknowledges, children will get them - either on their own, or from a parent. The best hope is for supervision and the knowledge that it's not OK to bring the toys to school or other public places.

"The only problem is when you have it with the younger audience. They have to be very careful with the environment and situation they're using them in," Woo said. "The guns, themselves, are safe."


  1. Anonymous12:13 PM

    im 14 years old. ok i agree they are dangerous but if u buy them in the U.S.A. they come with orange tips on the barrels so u kno if its real or not so i dont see wat the problem is

  2. Anonymous3:31 AM

    they don't do bodily harm. the worst thing that has a chance of of happening is getting hit in the eye, and if you wear safety glasses that won't happen, and think of all the rest of your body. small chance you'll be hit in the eye. they only sting a little. its not like lawes should be freaking out if a kid gets one 2 houses over. they aren't going to hit her. shes just over reating.

  3. Anonymous11:59 AM

    I agree with the first comment airsoft guns have orange tips, the police should be aware of this fact and use it to their advantage. Although one of my friends painted his orange tip black to make it look more realistic-in this case, yes it should be treated as a deadly weapon case scenario. These are plastic shooting toys, yes slightly dangerous toys but toys none the less. If you are mature enough to know the difference between actual guns and these toy guns then they should also be smart enough to know how to handles these "toys" with more respect.

  4. Anonymous2:15 PM

    im very sry, but ppl are just too stupid for there own good, i live in mass and airsoft is my way of getting out and enjoying my self. the police and gov need to realize that its not all the citizens fualt for violence with a fake plastic/metal gun that blows 6mm plactic ball out though a tube using air. there the first ones to go out and auccaly shoot someone with a real gun, start wars and kill ppl. Renactment its just a side effect of what they've sone in the past. blaming airsoft is just another way to hide behide an blanket of lies and using us, the harmless airsoft as a scapegoat

    Oh and so im not anonymous and my voice is heard all you need to know is

  5. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Many of the guns that are being sold over the internet do not have the orange tips on the end. Even the ones that do ave the tips on them are being taken off. You can purchase a black tip on e-bay. In the laws eyes, this can be a very serious situation. As stated, law enforcement is trained to act as though it is a deadly force weapon. Just because some of you people like to run around a room somewhere and "pretend shoot" each other for fun doesn't mean it is all fun and games. Someone carrying a toy gun could be injured by police because it is thought to be real. I don't know about you...but if you pulled a weapon on me like that and I had the chance to it you first. I would. I'm sure many officers would have a similar opinion. In that situation, it's you or them.

  6. Anonymous12:03 PM

    So here's my two cents.....If you're a kid, you could be pursuing dozens of great hobbies, sports, computers, music. But you choose shooting guns. I just don't get it. does THAT get to be your release?? I really hope you don't get injured, or injure anybody else. I'm sorry, it is stupid. Curious....are you a NASCAR or WWF fan too?

  7. Anonymous9:48 PM

    Its an adrenaline rush... no one can argue with that, i do play airsoft and i am 14 years old. I believe that it is best to see it as this... these guns serve as a way to keep kids away from the real thing. Although they are replicas of the actual models, would you rather see a child playing with a plastic toy, or an M16?

  8. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Im only 12 i play with airsoft guns and i live in MA its just stupid how people think there significatntly dangurous. They are all wrong because if you play airsoft you know to do it away from people that dont have any protection. But if you do play airsoft and you are stupid enough to carry an airsoft gun around in public or shoot people without protection you are a complete idiot. It's people like them that gets the sale of airsoft banned in your state.

    1. Anonymous6:56 PM

      your right!

  9. Anonymous8:05 PM

    it is unconstitutional to ban the use of these. its a citizens right to bear arms.

  10. cuzairsoftisghey2:54 AM

    ok...let's step back and look at the big picture here...airsoft guns are not the problem...whether or not they have orange muzzles isn't the problem..

    The problem is people like Lawes that try to force thier views on everyone else, while not having a proper knowledge of the subject matter at hand.

    I myself think airsoft is just ghey, but this IS America, and I defend the constitutional right to "the pursuit of happiness", so just 'cuz I don't like it doesn't mean that it should be outlawed...what ever happened to "live and let live"?

    The problem is the America we've let our police get out of control...the police in any large city have transformoed over the last 30 years from the civilian peacekeepers they're intended to be, into a perverse military "public suppression" force more akin to the "SS",thier minds sickened, twisted, and paranoid, thinking that every "average joe" is some sexual predator or drug addict, and harrassing people for kicks...the police are feared by not just criminals, but by law-abiding citizens alike...

    The problem is that you can't just take a person straight out of the military and slap a badge on them and give them civilian authority, because they have no clue how to act in a "civilain" setting (no offense to all you military folks, but most of you are "institutionalized", and therefore tend to relate to civilians in an improper military manner), directly leading to unfortunate encounters between police and kids playing with toy guns.

    And in conlusion. I hope Lawes' nieghbor buys a pellet rifle...that'll really curl her toes =p

  11. Anonymous3:41 PM

    I am a 14 year old, who uses airsoft guns to create action movies. I have a strict policy for my guns, including the safeties on even when there is no ammo within 100 yards of it. I always check to see if it is loaded, and I never point it at anyone unless we're playing airsoft or filming. Some teens can handle these "Toys" quite responsibly, but some youth, younger, or have a mental disability should not possess one. People know what they can handle, not anyone else. I was unsure the first time I used mine, and now, I am very comfortable unless it is in the hands of someone else.

    My grandfather used to be a marksman, and my father learned well from him, as I did from him that even Cap Guns should be treated as responsibly as real guns.

  12. Anonymous7:20 PM

    its jus really a toy... but like if ur parents let u have 1 then tht means they think ur not stupid enough to shoot some 1. airsoft is fun and thts jus wat we like but i dont think there is even a hand ful of ppl in MA tht will rob a bank with a fake gun... if a kid is carryin 1 then 1 outa 50 its real

  13. Anonymous2:08 PM

    I am only 12 years old and I have an airsoft gun. You can get them for like 20 dollars at Walmart. They are so easy to get. They are not dangerous unless they hit you in the eye. I don't play with eye gear but if you do that eliminates all danger of an injury. Plus they have an orange tip which real guns don't have so they cant be mistaken for a real gun. People are real stupid

  14. Anonymous4:54 PM

    I just got an airsoft rifle for my 14 yr old. He can use it in the backyard, and woods. He just asked if he could take it to a friends house south of Boston in an area where houses are close, with little or no backyard. I said NO. I won't be there, and you are too close to houses. He can use them in the country where we live; thats it. Be responsible parents and there won't be any problems

  15. Anonymous12:13 PM

    in reading all of your comments i have a split opinion. on the one hand i'm 21 years old and i am both a gun owner and an airsoft owner. i love to go out n shoot at the range and i love CQB fights i have spent over 700$ on my primary m4 GBB. i have 2 small children one of them is 3 and the other is under 1. The first thing they teach you wen you take your firearme safety corse to apply for an FID card or a LTC is that you treat every gun as if it were loaded. I have a collection of over 20 airsoft guns both pistals and rifles and a collection of over 10 real firearms. yes they are all safe in the respect that they won't kill you. but in the eyes of the law they look just like one that can. this is why they all come with an orange tip on the muzzle this is to differenciate them from the real thing. now having sed that THIS STILL DOES NOT MAKE THEM TOYS. they fire pellets which in my eyes are bullets without the shell. would i like to one day teach my kids how to shoot straight one day, of corse. but they won't so much as look at my guns untill i know that they understand that theese things are not toys and if you or anyone else out there think of them as toys, then in my eyes you aren't mature enough to be alloud to own them. spacificly the 14 year old and the 12 year old. from earlyer. do us all a favor, keep the orange tip on your guns and dont be whipin em out in the middle of the streed. becaure that's how people get hurt or killed.