Friday, March 19, 2010

OUR VIEW: Say no to airsoft guns

It's common sense that anything that looks like a real gun shouldn't be allowed in urban areas. The risk for accidental injury is too great, particularly at night when vision is obscured.

We urge the North Ogden City Council to maintain its current law prohibiting the use of airsoft guns and reject a request that youngsters and others be allowed to use the guns on private city property with adult supervision.

Recently, a Boy Scout troop, fulfilling a merit badge requirement, approached the city council and asked that airsoft guns be allowed with certain safety requirements. This would be for personal use and not as part of the Scouts, Scout leader Dean Halbert explained to the council.

Boy Scout Colby Widdison told council members that he and the other boys believe that with safety gear, playing with an airsoft gun can be done without harm.

And Councilman Brent Taylor and city resident Dave Hulme both expressed support for changes in the law that would allow some type of airsoft gun use.

However, we hold with the opinion of North Ogden Police Chief Polo Afuvai in wanting to maintain the ban on airsoft guns. Right now possession of one is a class B misdemeanor. As Afuvai demonstrated to councilmembers, an airsoft gun looks like a regular handgun.

Its only distinction is orange at the end of the gun. That is not enough disguise to prevent a misunderstanding that could lead to a fatal tragedy.

Besides, it is clearly stated on the airsoft gun that was shown to the North Ogden council that it is not for youngsters' use. And North Ogden is not the only city that prohibits the use of airsoft guns. Ogden, Centerville and South Ogden also have laws against its use.

Afuvai is correct that ending the prohibition on airsoft guns can make the city less safe.

He suggests parents talk to him about requests to use the toy gun in backyards.

Frankly, as we've stated before, if it looks like a weapon, we don't want to see it being used.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

BATFE Guilty of More Arrogant Behavior -- Seizes AirSoft Toy Guns

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), apparently unable to distinguish between real guns and replicas AirSoft, seized a shipment of 30 toy AirSoft guns in a February bust at the Port of Tacoma in Washington.

Airsoft guns, which fire little plastic balls, are used by a growing number of loyal enthusiasts (think paintball, only not as messy). In addition, thanks to their realistic look, weight, and feel, these guns are often used for training purposes by National Guard units and law enforcement.

It was this realism that led CBP agents to seize the shipment—which was destined for Airsoft Outlet Northwest in Cornelius, Oregon—and to call in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) for a closer look.

The BATFE was at least knowledgeable enough to discern that the guns in question were, in fact, not real guns. The case should have ended right then and there. After all, the agency has authority only with respect to the importation of real guns. Toy guns fall no more under BATFE jurisdiction than teddy bears.

However, a little technicality like lack of jurisdiction was not enough to keep BATFE off the case.

“In its present state, our firearms technology branch classified this as a machine gun,” said BATFE special agent Kelvin Crenshaw.

But wait a minute. Didn’t the BATFE previously admit that these are not real guns?

Yes, but “With minimal work it could be converted to a machine gun,” Crenshaw said.

Astonished, the owners of the store, Brad Martin and his son, Ben, inquired with the agents as to exactly how “minimal” the work would be to “convert” these toys into real machine guns.

The Martins were given the government version of “talk to the hand.” File a Freedom of Information Act request, they were told.

The Martins have done just that, as has Gun Owners of America. There must be accountability with this agency because if the Bureau can unilaterally decide to get into the business of regulating toys, its mission has grown dramatically without any congressional input or oversight.

Of course, that would not come as a big surprise to many gun dealers who interact with the BATFE on a regular basis. The agency has become an arrogant and out-of-control bureaucracy with a history of trampling on people’s gun rights.

Even more troubling is that this agency’s mission—at least as it relates to firearms—falls completely outside the framework of constitutional authority given to the federal government.

As the Supreme Court reaffirmed in the 2008 Heller decision, Americans have an individual right to keep and bear arms. But if firearms transactions have to be approved by the Washington bureaucrats, what was once a “right” has morphed into a “privilege.”

And now they are opening the door to regulating toy guns, even though it would be extremely risky, expensive and, well, dumb, to attempt to convert an Airsoft into an actual machinegun.

In fact, GOA and the Martins separately consulted with several gunsmiths who debunked the notion that the seized Airsoft guns could be converted with “minimal work.”

To make the transformation, the entirety of the upper receiver would have to be replaced, but the lower receiver would still be unable to endure the intense force of live ammunition because it is made of pot metal (inexpensive alloys) instead of hard steel. And all of this work would actually cost more than buying a real—and stable—AR-15 rifle.

BATFE also tried to justify the seizure because the toys lacked the blaze orange tips now required on all imported toy guns. This again raises the question of jurisdiction and the BATFE regulating toy guns.

The Martins noted that previous shipments from Taiwan lacked the orange paint, but that they were allowed to simply go to Tacoma and paint the ends of the barrels themselves.

Not this time, though. The toy guns, valued at over $10,000, remain in the hands of the BATFE and are slated to be destroyed.

Brad and Ben Martin were robbed just as surely as if they had been mugged walking down the street. Only in this instance, the thugs operated under the color of law by an agency whose very existence is questionable.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Real but not lethal - The world of Airsoft Guns

DORRANCE TWP. – The soft crackling throughout the woods only vaguely implies combat, like hearing exchanges of gunfire muffled by earplugs – or maybe just nuts falling in the autumn.
But that’s Airsoft: as real as possible without being lethal.

Simulation though it might be, Airsoft seems anything but for the battle gear-clad participants in the field, who refer to each other using call signs, engage in tactical maneuvers and geek out about their gear.

“For people who are into it, you can easily spend $3,000,” said Jon Rizzo, whose family owns the 50-acre home field of Saints Airsoft, a Christian-based group based in the township.

On a clear blue Saturday morning earlier this month, bright white snow contrasted sharply with bleak, bare trees – an intriguing area of operations for the day of loosely structured “open play” the Saints were hosting.

Northeastern Pennsylvania is surprisingly replete with Airsoft teams; all but one of the teams there were from the region: Mountain Top-based Ghost Recon Assault Team, the Deathdealers from Honesdale and Carbondale, Dead Man’s Hands from Hanover Township and Ashley and Wilkes-Barre’s two squads – the Rebels and the Patriots.

While its members consider it a sport, Airsoft is probably more akin to a live-action version of warfare video games such as “Call of Duty” and “Medal of Honor.” Players usually sort into two sides – outfitted with guns, ammunition and other equipment, such as canteens, radios and flash grenades – and take to the field in an attempt to outflank and outwit the opposition. There’s even an injury and medic system for role-playing non-lethal hits, and players who have “died” can “respawn” by returning to a certain spot on the field.

“That’s where most of us started out, with a game like that,” said Don “Keeper” Swelgin, who’s turned his Shavertown property into a close-quarters training ground for his Patriots teammates.

“I only have 4.6 acres, so I actually made it more busy by adding more buildings,” he said.

While it might seem unpublicized, the community is robust enough that a player usually can find a game on any given weekend.

Unlike paintball, the guns shoot biodegradable plastic airsoft BBs at speeds up to 500 feet per second, which players say can be painful depending on the location of the hit. But the cleanup is easier.

“I don’t have to change my clothes before getting in the car,” said Ryan “Dizzy” Dziak, a Patriots airsoft team member.

Even women get involved – sort of. Lisa Pritchard humors her boyfriend, Patriots co-founder Kevin “Chips” Chlipala, by capturing the squad in action. “I take pictures,” she said. “I don’t shoot guns.”

Many military aspects crop up during games. “We have these call signs, and after a while you forget people’s real names,” said James “Dublin” Holland, a Moosic native and Patriots co-founder.

Bo Stobodzian, of Hanover Township, was in the Marines before he found paintball and then Airsoft. Rizzo, who’s been playing since he was 12, hopes to parlay his six years of experience into a commission at the U.S. Naval Academy. He said it’s been helpful for initial interviews.

“They love it,” the Crestwood graduate said. “Some of the guys were able to relate.”

Chlipala didn’t get that far, but Airsoft helped him find what he was looking for.

“When I was 18, I wanted to join the military, but an illness held me back. I figured this was the next best thing, kind of simulate the real-world army,” he said. “When I started this, I found a community with it. If I wanted to explain our community in one word it would be a brotherhood.”

Monday, March 01, 2010

ATF seizes 30 toy airsoft guns, infuriating local business owner

CORNELIUS, Ore. - A local business owner is flabbergasted after a shipment of 30 toy guns for his store was confiscated by ATF agents in Tacoma.

Brad Martin and his son, Ben, sell the Airsoft BB guns from their store in Cornelius where they’ve been in business for seven years.

The Martins said they buy their stock from Taiwan because the merchandise is less expensive. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seized a shipment of 30 in October. That shipment is worth around $12,000 and the ATF is promising to destroy the entire shipment.

Special Agent Kelvin Crenshaw said the toys can be easily retro-fitted into dangerous weapons.

"With minimal work it could be converted to a machine gun," Crenshaw said.

Brad Martin is furious about the loss of money, for sure, but also in what he now thinks as a loss of his time and the use of government agents to seize toy Airsoft guns.

"All this manpower, all this time, all this taxpayer money, [it is] wasting my time and my profitability,” Martin said. “[Just] to seize 30 toy airsoft guns!"

Ben Martin disagrees that the toy guns could ever be considered dangerous.

"To say these are readily convertible to machine guns is absolutely preposterous,” he said. “The round wouldn't go into the firing chamber and even if the firing pin did strike the primer the gun would basically blow up in your face.”

ATF said it also seized the toys because they are missing the blaze orange tips required on all imported toy airsoft guns.

The Martins said they've received shipments before from Taiwan that were missing the orange tips and were simply asked by customs agents to drive up to Tacoma and paint the tips orange themselves. They are wondering why it is an issue now.

News covereage can be seen at