Airsoft guns are a type of toy gun, similar to paintball guns, that are used in outdoor shooting games and for training. Their resemblance to true firearms has prompted many countries to impose age requirements and other restrictions on their use. Age requirements differ from country to country and state to state. Some background about airsoft guns and how they work can make these age restrictions more understandable.
What is an Airsoft Gun?
An airsoft gun uses compressed air to shoot a 6 millimetre or 8 millimetre nonmetallic pellet with a lower velocity and lighter impact than a BB gun or pellet gun. Some airsoft guns are powered by a spring rather than compressed air.
Airsoft guns got their start in the 1970s in Japan when it was illegal to own a firearm. Manufacturers developed the airsoft guns for recreational use because they did not violate gun restrictions. The toy guns grew in popularity, and that popularity spread to neighbouring countries with similar gun restrictions, including China, the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan. Airsoft guns did not become popular in the U.S. and Europe until the 1990s, and most were still made in Japan.
A person must be at least 18 to purchase an airsoft gun in many countries, including the U.S., Japan and Canada. The United Kingdom allows purchase of an airsoft gun at age 17. The U.S. also requires adult supervision for children under the age of 18 while using the guns. Children in the United Kingdom between the ages of 14 and 17 can use the guns with adult supervision. In Canada, since such guns are considered replicas, the only way to buy one is through a local vendor, who must have a license to import them. Japan has legalised low-velocity airsoft guns.
Because the guns closely resemble real guns, airsoft guns have been outlawed in some parts of the U.S., including New York City; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Detroit. New Jersey is considering legislation to ban the guns.
Air soft guns are required to have an orange plastic tip to distinguish them from the real thing. If the airsoft gun is confused with an actual firearm, the person carrying it can be injured or killed by a police officer or private citizen who misunderstands his intent. Eye protection is highly recommended.