Airsoft Gun Laws by State
A study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), back in 2005, took into account as many as 19,675 non-powder gun injuries that were reported and treated in ERs across the US. Out of these injuries, as many as 71% of the injured were not older than 20 years of age.
While these results weren’t limited to airsoft guns alone, the fact that airsoft guns fire BBs at high speeds up to hundreds of feet/second created a high and real risk of serious injuries. The most vulnerable parts are the eyes, according to the study cited above.
Keeping these numbers in mind, and the increasing number of eye-related injuries, safety around airsoft guns is paramount, as is an understanding of the applicable state laws regarding these weapons.
Importance of State Regulations on Airsoft Guns?
Aside from the reduction of the risk of injury, the laws that govern the use of airsoft guns are crucial, especially since these BB and pellet guns meant to look like actual rifles, machine guns, or handguns. In some instances, their power is measured and compared to real guns.
The airsoft guns working by firing pellets also called BBs. The guns use a spring-loaded system, compressed gas, or electrical systems, to propel the BBs at high velocity. Airsoft guns are often used in target practice, paintball-style gaming, as well as their use on movie sets and firearms training for the military.
Even though the guns are marketed as being “play” devices, they are still used to and intended to simulate real combat using real weapons. Furthermore, their uncanny resemblance of these guns to real weapons often has disastrous consequences, which is why they are governed/regulated by state and federal laws. The laws apply to buyers, users, and manufacturers alike.
Many experts are concerned about the ownership of Airsoft guns because of the assumed deadly consequences that accompany them. The assumption is that young people who grow up using Airsoft guns make a natural transition to real weapons but without understanding its deadly consequences.
The overall public’s reaction towards guns has, in the past, meant that the police have mistakenly gunned down individuals with these realistic looking airsoft guns. So, even though these guns are perceived as toys, and most parents may feel it is okay for their kids to have them, there is a real threat that should be considered.
So, the question is: what are the state’s laws regarding ownership, use, and transportation of airsoft guns?
Federal and State Laws Regarding Airsoft Guns
To reduce the risks associated with the possession and use of airsoft guns, the Federal government restricts the purchase to people of 18 years (or older). Now, this is even though they (airsoft guns) aren’t classified as firearms.
The twist in the law is that Airsoft guns can be used by individuals of all ages. That said, every state has different state-level laws and regulations regarding the purchase, use, and possession of these guns.
So, while only people aged 18 and can buy Airsoft guns, it can be used by anyone.
New York State
New York State requires that all realistic-looking firearms and imitations be brightly colored or made from plastic. According to the law, the barrel of an Airsoft gun, also defined as a BB gun, should be coated with plastic or permanent color, which runs the length of the barrel. Also, the barrel needs to be more than an inch thick. The bright colors make it easy to distinguish a toy or Airsoft gun from a real firearm.
Additionally, below are a couple of regulations that govern the use and the possession of Airsoft guns:
- The airsoft gun shouldn’t be exposed in public or public spaces
- You shouldn’t use the airsoft gun in public areas like parks, restaurants, malls, etc.
- Never, ever, take your airsoft gun to school
- When holding or using your airsoft gun, you should never act irresponsibly with it, whether you are using it in private or out in public.
- The state considers it illegal to brandish airsoft guns in public or any unlawful actions involving airsoft guns. For instance, pointing it at someone is unlawful.
- It is illegal for individuals under 16 years to possess airsoft guns
It is safe to say that part of the reason for these strict rules has to do with the fact that the NYC Police Department confiscated thousands of airsoft guns back in 1987 after a string of robberies and other offenses were committed using them. This move resulted in the tightening of the regulations around the use and possession of so-called “toy weapons.”
In Illinois, the minimum age for a person who can buy an Airsoft gun is 18 and above, which is similar to New York State. However, unlike New York, it is illegal to distribute and ship airsoft guns in some cities.
In most cities where you are allowed to purchase an airsoft gun, the law requires that the purchaser remove the orange blaze tip from the barrel. However, residents of Chicago can buy and keep BB, airsoft, and paintball guns, but they aren’t permitted to carry it. That said, the regulation does not apply to Chicagoland.
Back in 2012, the state of Illinois reclassified airsoft guns, and now they don’t fall under the same category as firearms but instead into a subcategory of big-bore airguns. However, they are required to use a .18 caliber or larger size ammunition if the shooting velocity is under 700FPS.
Aurora, Illinois, however, strictly forbids the use of airsoft guns.
New Jersey State
New Jersey classifies airsoft guns as fake or imitation guns and not as firearms. While a string of regulations between 2006-2012 sought to categorize airsoft guns as real guns, they were vastly unsuccessful. Today NJ maintains that airsoft guns are imitation, but require that users handle them with extra care.
Few cities in New Jersey have strict regulation or any regulation for that matter regarding the sale and purchase of airsoft guns. So, enthusiasts can buy and use these guys without getting on the wrong side of the law.
The state of California has outlawed the sale of airsoft guns to individuals below the age of 18 unless they have the permission of a guardian or parents. Also, state law requires that all airsoft guns come fitted with a 6mm blaze tip at the barrel.
In the most recent update to the regulations around airsoft guns was in the form of the 2016 Ordinance. The new ordinance stipulates that all the airsoft guns must have fluorescent coloring on both the grip and the trigger guard.
State of Colorado
Airsoft gun rules in Colorado aren’t as strict. However, the regulation mainly centers around children.
Students carrying airguns to school are liable to be expelled. The regulations also restrict pointing or brandishing airguns at people regardless of their experiences with weapons.
The state prohibits the sale of airsoft guns or BB guns to children under 16 years.
If you are planning to engage in airsoft-related activities in Washington DC, you need to be aware that this state considers all airsoft guns illegal. So, no much fun there.
If you are an airsoft gun enthusiast in Pennsylvania, you will be happy to learn that the state allows the sale and the use of airsoft guns. However, state law stipulates that the guns be fitted with a blaze orange-toped barrel. Furthermore, there are some regulations and restrictions regarding the sale of airsoft guns. These include:
- Airsoft guns, whether they are pistols, shotguns, or rifles, should never be sold to minors unless accompanied by an instructor or their guardian/parents.
- Airsoft guns should never be sold to individuals under 18 years of age.
- Minors are not to be allowed to carry airsoft guns in public, whether on public land, the highway or public roads, unless accompanied by an adult.
The state also notes that it is unlawful to discharge airsoft guns in public – buildings or highways. Airsoft guns are only be used in an official airsoft facility.
San Francisco State
The state of San Francisco regards all replica and imitation guns as illegal.
While the purchase of airsoft guns is legal within the state of Michigan, replica guns must have an orange tip at the barrel.
In Minnesota, it’s illegal for kids under 14 years to use airsoft guns. It is also illegal to carry Airsoft guns in the city of Minneapolis unless you are carrying a replica with an orange or a brightly colored tip.
On the same note, firing an airsoft gun within the city limits is illegal, and it is also unlawful to carry an airsoft fin within the city limits if it has a laser attachment. Airsoft guns should be transported in a concealed box or bag.
Kids under 12 years of age must be under the supervision of adults to use an airsoft gun. The same goes for purchasing airsoft guns, i.e., it can’t be purchased with parental consent.
State of North Dakota
Airsoft guns fall into the category of dangerous weapons in North Dakota, and criminal laws applicable to dangerous weapons apply to them as well.
State of Texas
Most cities in Texas permit the discharge of airsoft guns out of the city limits only. The purchase of airsoft guns is also legal.
State of Arkansas
The use and possession of all types of airsoft guns are illegal in Arkansas
State of Wisconsin
The state of Wisconsin asserts the idea that airsoft guns can be dangerous weapons. State laws note that it is unlawful to knowingly carry airsoft guns to schools or any location within its premises – playing fields, recreation area, and school zones in general.
Note: The school zones include school buildings, school grounds, as well as all areas 1,000 ft around and within school grounds.
Carrying your airsoft gun without a case or brandishing it in front of police officers has been illegal in the state of Hawaii since 2003. Since the public is unable to differentiate between actual guns and replica airsoft guns, the use of airsoft guns isn’t illegal in Hawaii. All airsoft guns should be carried in their case and discharged in licensed airsoft facilities.
In most parts of Kansas, you can carry, use and own an airsoft gun, but you need to ensure that your airsoft gun has an orange blaze top on its barrel. However, It is illegal to use and discharge an airsoft gun within the city’s limits of Leawood and Overland Park.
Even though the state of Tennessee hasn’t imposed additional restriction on airsoft guns and their use beyond the Federal laws, you are required to embellish the gun’s barrel with the color orange.
So, before you buy an airsoft gun, re-familiarize yourself with the state laws applicable in the state you reside or intend to use it in. But the general rule is that you must be over 18 years to buy an airsoft gun and must never carry or discharge the gun in public, wherever you are.
As a rule of thumb, make sure to visit your state’s official website and read the latest regulation regarding Airsoft guns. Since laws frequently change as an Airsoft gun use, it is your job to update with the latest laws.