General Questions and AnswersThis guide has been compiled over a number of months, some of the information may no longer be valid or accurate, though we do try and update regularly. Please read thoroughly.
Home Office Statement:
Realistic imitation firearms and airsoft guns:
It was also an offence from 1 October to manufacture, import or sell a realistic imitation firearm. However, we recognize there are legitimate uses for realistic imitation firearms and have provided, in addition to the defences specified on the face of the Act in relation to the use of realistic imitations for film, television and historical re-enactment, a defence, through regulations, for airsoft skirmishing. The defence relates to "the acting out of military or law enforcement scenarios for the purposes of recreation" for which third party liability insurance is held.
The United Kingdom Retailers Association (UKARA) has put in place arrangements to allow retailers to check that individual purchasers are members of a genuine skirmishing club or site. Under these arrangements, new players must play at least 3 times in a period not less than 2 months before being offered membership; membership cards with a photograph and recognized format will be issued for production to retailers; a central database will be set up for retailers to cross-check a purchaser's details; and a member's entry on the database will be deleted if unused for 12 months.
Non-realistic imitation firearms and airsoft guns:
We cannot offer views on the particular items which you sent nor can we interpret or enforce the law as this is a matter for the courts and police respectively.
Those who will not meet the requirements specified in the regulations will not be able to acquire realistic imitations but will still be able to buy non-realistic imitation firearms, as will those who wish to purchase paintball markers. The Act states that an imitation firearm is to be considered distinguishable from a real firearm if its size, shape or principal colour is unrealistic for a real firearm. Accordingly, to provide business with a degree of certainty about what can be traded in, the regulations specify that imitation firearms with a height less than 38mm and a length less than 70mm would be considered unrealistic. Additionally, imitation firearms which are transparent; bright red; bright orange; bright yellow; bright green; bright pink; bright purple; and bright blue are considered non-realistic colours.
Offence to sell an imitation to a person under 18:
"Imitation firearm" is defined in section 57(4) of the Firearms 1968 as "any thing which has the appearance of being a firearm whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile". It will ultimately be for the courts to decide whether any item falls within this definition but it will also apply to non-realistic imitations which nevertheless have "the appearance of being a firearm". This could include some children's toys although many toys will look so different from a firearm they might not be regarded as an imitation at all (for example, some of the more futuristic looking space guns). Where a toy is considered to be an imitation firearm (and where an item is considered an imitation firearm), the purchase will have to be made by a parent or other person aged over 18.
What are these new laws? / What is the VCRA?
The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 or VCRA as it is often shortened is a new piece of legislation created by the Government to help combat crime. Unfortunately it threatens Airsoft by banning the sale, importation and manufacturer of Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIFs) in the UK. All true airsoft replicas fall under this RIF definition. The laws that affect Airsoft replicas came in to effect on the 1st of October 2007.
Who does it affect?
All UK based customers who wish to purchase airsoft replicas. Customers not located in the UK, such as those in the Republic of Ireland are completely unaffected. It also doesn’t affect customers making non-replica purchases, so the sale of everything else, parts, accessories, magazines, consumables will continue as normal.
Does it affect ownership?
No, the VCRA only bans the sale, importation and manufacturer of Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIFs) in the UK. Therefore all Realistic Imitation Firearms you currently own are as legal to keep as before.
But Airsoft has an exemption?
Yes, the UKARA (United Kingdom Retailers Association) of which JD Airsoft Ltd is a member, along with other groups have fought successfully for a defence / exemption. This exemption protects airsoft by giving players a workable defence, allowing them to continue to purchase RIF's if they meet certain requirements. As long as a person can prove that they are an airsoft skirmisher, they may purchase RIFs. This can be done successfully by either joining UKARA (although this is not a legal requirement, and as such, is not recognised by the Home Office as having any legal authority over airsoft skirmishers) and or having proof (ID card) of membership at a airsoft site that has 3rd party insurance.
What are these requirements?
In order for any retailer to sell a UK customer a RIF under the exemption that has been granted, the customer must be 18 years old or over and be an airsoft skirmisher. To qualify as an “airsoft skirmisher” you must be a regular player at that skirmish site that has 3rd party insurance and having attended 3 times in a period not less than 2 months.
How does the UKARA player’s scheme work?
The scheme is fairly simple, as it is the seller’s responsibility to prove that the customer meets these requirements it was necessary to setup a database that allows the retailer to quickly and easily check that a customer has the right to purchase RIF's. This UKARA player’s database is accessible by UKARA retailers allowing them to check that a customer is legally entitled to purchase.
The UKARA has approved lots of airsoft skirmish sites located in the UK, ensuring that they have the required 3rd party insurance and then issuing them with a validating stamp. Players are then validated by these sites, they check each of them to make sure they are registered skirmishers, therefore having attended 3 times in a period not less than 2 monthsand making sure they are 18 years old or over. This is done through a player’s membership form, which the player fills out and then gives to the site along with the required forms of ID. The site checks and stamps this form, issuing the player with a membership number, the player is then required to posts it off to a UKARA retailer who uploads the player’s details onto the database. Once this has been done all the player needs to do is quote this membership number when they place an order with a UKARA retailer for a RIF. The retailer checks the order details and membership number against what is held on the database and if they match the order is processed and shipped.
Where can I see a list of UKARA Registered Gaming Sites?
On the UKARA website there is a page with a list of UKARA registered game sites.This list is being updated all of the time as sites register with the UKARA.
Are there any requirements once I’m on the database?
Yes, in the first 12 months after you are registered you must make one purchase of a RIF, otherwise your entry will be removed. After this you must place one order every 12 months in order to stay on the database.
Are mail order and other distance selling like online purchases still allowed?
Yes, because of the way that the UKARA scheme works all mail order and online purchases will continue as normal as long as the customer can provide proof that they meet the requirements. This is done by supplying a valid player membership number which is currently on the player’s database and or proof of membership to an airsoft site that has the relevant protocols in place.
What about Collectors and Target Shooters?
Unfortunately the defence only protects airsoft skirmishers, so if you wish to purchase a RIF you must play at a skirmish site that holds 3rd party insurance.
Are any other Airsoft products affected?
No, only the replicas themselves fall under the RIF definition, everything else from accessories such as magazines, parts and consumables such as gas and BB’s are all unaffected. They can all be purchased as normal as they do not resemble a realistic imitation firearm and therefore are not covered by the VCRA.
I am a member of the Armed Forces can I buy a RiF?
There are no exceptions to the legislation for members of any of the services, the crown servant section refers to purchase for the crown by crown servants, not individuals. Service personnel are still required to become a member of an insured Airsoft Site or Club to be eligible to purchase RiFs. Due to service commitments I cannot play enough times when at home on leave to qualify. The time period over which you have to play your 3 games is at the discretion of the participating game site providing the 3 games are not played in a time that is less than 2 months, the maximum time period is 12 months.
I am under 18, can my parents buy me a RiF?
Not unless they are members of one the approved purchasing groups, it would appear that there is no problem of a gift from an eligible purchaser to a minor.
I am under 18, can I buy an Imitation Firearm or "Two Tone "?
No you cannot, an IF cannot be purchased by a person under 18 years of age.
Who are UKARA ?
UKARA are a group of Airsoft retailers who have formed an association to protect their businesses and enable the sale of Realistic Imitation Firearms ( RiF's), to the newly restricted recognised and approved customers resulting from the Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA).
Why have they set up the UKARA Scheme ?
Under the new act it is the responsibility of the seller to verify that the purchaser is approved, and they may be prosecuted if they fail to do this with due diligence.
How will the UKARA scheme do this?
UKARA has set up an Independent Data Base which will be used to list eligible purchasers and allow UKARA retailer members to check sale recipients are bona fidi.
Who are the eligible purchasers?
The only groups of persons now allowed to purchase RiF's are Film,TV, Museums, Theatres, Crown Servants, and persons engaged in Re-enactment activities, and airsoft skirmishing. All these purchasers must be over 18 years of age.
What must Re-enactment people and Airsoft players do to show the are bona fidi?
Both these groups must show that their activities are covered by third party liability insurance and that they are over 18, in the case of Airsoft Players they must also show that they are regular players at an accredited game site. Which means they must be a member of a game site with the appropriate Airsoft Insurance cover.
How do players become members of an approved game site and eligible to buy RiF's?
The games site has to record you as a member and preferably issue you with a membership card. To qualify as an "airsoft skirmisher" you must be a regular player at that game site, having attended 3 games in a period which exceeds 2 months. Identification will also be required, such as passport and drivers license.
Why the UKARA scheme ?
The UKARA scheme allows certified game sites to join a list on the UKARA web site to show they are participating in the UKARA scheme, this then means that they can approve UKARA player application forms, the game site having been registered and issued with a validating stamp and recognised signature.
Why is this an advantage?
If the player downloads a Player application form from the UKARA web site he can have this confirmed by his UKARA registered game site and then send it to any UKARA retailer with his first order, who will then enter the players details on the UKARA Database. This then means that he can then order from any UKARA member retailer and providing he includes his UKARA game site, numbers he can be verified and thus sold to.
My game site is not on the UKARA game site list, can I still register with UKARA ?
No, if your game site is not on the UKARA list then you cannot get your player form validated, you would need to wait till your site joins, or go to a UKARA approved game site.
Will UKARA use my personal information for other purposes?
No, your information is protected under the Data Protection Act and may not be divulged to any third party unless authorised by you, if you are at any time unhappy you may have your details expunged from the record. It is only there to allow retailers to confirm you are eligible to purchase.
Can I have my RiF sent to a different address?
No, Rifs must be sent to the registered postal address of the player.
How do I purchase from a UKARA dealer at their shop premises?
If you take suitable ID such as a drivers license passport etc. along with your UKARA Players number the retailer can check that you are the registered buyer by checking the Data system.
What do I do with my players application form?
Once you are a member of a UKARA game site and have been a regular there for more than two months, having played at least 3 times, you can get your form verified and then send it off with your next order to a UKARA retailer.
You will have to do this by post, and if your actual order is via the net or phone make sure you reference the two together, posting a day in advance of your order would probably also help. Your form can also be sent to a Core or Associate retailer as it makes no difference, though please do not post directly to the UKARA Admin.
When they process your order they can add you to the Database, and once this has been done you can order from any UKARA retailer quoting your UKARA site membership number. Please remember RiF's will only be sent to your registered address.