...unless you build an airsoft gun using the receiver or frame of an actual firearm. Tim Ellwood of No Airsoft for Old Men sent us this new FAQ from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after the letter about M4/M16 Gas Blowback rifles being considered as firearms disappeared from the ATF website. But this also gets us scratching again as an airsoft gun which is built on actual firearm is considered a firearm rather than airsoft gun.
Now let's read the the original text more below. I will put in BOLD letters the sections that are in conflict. You can read the original text to confirm at the ATF website, the link which was sent in by the ever vigilant Tim.
The term “firearm” is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include (A) any weapon (including a starter gun), which will, or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon…. Based on Section 921(a)(3), air guns, because they use compressed air and not an explosive to expel a projectile, do not constitute firearms under Federal law — unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm. Accordingly, the domestic sale and possession of air guns is normally unregulated under the Federal firearms laws enforced by ATF.
We caution that ATF is not charged with enforcement or oversight of the firearms laws of States or localities. To determine possible restrictions on air guns where you reside, we recommend that you contact the office of your state Attorney General, the State Police, or other State/local law enforcement authorities for further guidance.
Err... see the section in bold? I'll try to make it clear:
- The keyword is Compressed Air. An airsoft gun uses compress air, a firearm does not. Thus, an airsoft gun is not a firearm.
- An airsoft gun built on receivers or frames a firearm still uses compress air, and does not violate the Gun Control Act of 1968. But according to the ATF, it is.
Am I wrong in my interpretation? I am with Tim here as we're not lawyers. But I would like to emphasize that a real firearm, once converted to airsoft uses compress air, cannot have "devastating ramifications" to quote an ATF agent that Airsoft Outlet Northwest knows so well.
Though we agree that if converting it to fire live rounds would make a certain item a firearm, but it's not only airsoft guns, it can be that harmless looking pipe or that titanium ballpoint pen. And acquisition of firearms is cheaper in the US rather than spending much time and money to convert an airsoft gun into a real firearm. Anyone who wants to have a firearm can save more and won't waste time by just going to that friendly gun store around the corner as long as you can be checked to be able to carry a firearm responsibly.
But how does the ATF define a "receiver or frame of actual firearm"? Is it a firearm that has the manufacturer serial number and have real gun parts ripped out to make way for the gas blowback parts of an airsoft gun? Or anything that resembles the receiver of a firearm even if it is a replica such as those found in airsoft guns?
Anyway, are we making a big issue here? There are still airsoft gas blowback rifles entering the US such as the WE G39C and the WE M14. This means that airsoft players can still have their gas blowback rifles without worries about having these considered as firearms by the ATF. It's the M4/M16 replicas that are of concern here, since they're the USA's symbol of military power. As long as the airsoft manufacturers make some modification that would not make their M4/M16 receivers be considered as actual firearm frames or receivers, there will be less headaches for the manufacturers, and much joy for the airsoft players.
Read more of this issue at No Airsoft for Old Men.