Saturday, August 30, 2008

Key West to tighten airsoft gun law

The Key West City Commission is expected to vote Wednesday on an ordinance that would prohibit selling airsoft guns to minors and make it illegal for minors to possess them.

The proposed law requires retailers of airsoft guns, which fire airsoft pellets using either compressed air or gas or a spring, to acquire a $200 license from the city every year. The person holding the license wouldn't be able to sell the realistic-looking weapons to someone under age 18.

Chris Robinson owns and operates State of the Art. His store is the only place to purchase airsoft guns in Key West and strictly enforces an 18-or-older policy.

"Parental supervision is lacking," Robinson said. "Kids ... have broken into our store and stolen the guns." Robinson cited the availability of airsoft guns for sale on the Internet as a real cause for concern. "It's absolutely ludicrous.... Are they going to go after the Internet next?"

The law would also outlaw anyone from discharging an airsoft gun on public property, including roads. Further, possession of an airsoft gun by a minor would be prohibited in public places unless the weapon is securely and inoperably stored in a sealed carrying device.

Commissioner Clayton Lopez first presented the proposed law at a City Commission meeting Aug. 5, and was met with unanimous approval.

As it stands, anyone buying an airsoft gun must be able to prove he or she is 16 or older. Lopez said the rules are not being enforced.

"By putting it into an ordinance, we're giving teeth to the enforcement," he said. Lopez's proposed ordinance was drafted following two reports of minors misusing airsoft guns.

In May, a woman driving her car near the George Allen apartment complex was hit in the face with a pellet fired by a young boy. In June, a Key West police officer drew his firearm after an underage boy was found carrying an airsoft gun on Olivia Street.

Wednesday's meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Old City Hall on Greene Street.

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