Air gun laws
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This is a list of laws concerning air guns by country.
While in some countries air guns are not subject to any specific regulation, in most there are laws, which differ widely. Each jurisdiction has its own definition of an air gun; and regulations may vary for weapons of different bore, muzzle energy or velocity, or material of ammunition, with guns designed to fire metal pellets often more tightly controlled than airsoft weapons. There may be minimum ages for possession, and sales of both air guns and ammunition may be restricted. Some areas in the world require permits and background checks similar to those required for firearms proper.
The Australian gun law is quite restrictive and differs on a state-by-state basis; however, as general rule all air guns — regardless of action type, caliber and muzzle energy — are considered firearms for legal purposes; e.g. air rifles are considered Class A firearms and as such are subject to licensing and registration.
Air pistols are considered handguns and subjected to Class H firearms restrictions. An air pistol shooter will require membership and attendance at an authorized pistol club for six months before allowing ownership, and need to shoot in at least ten events per year — four for each handgun class (air pistol, rimfire or centerfire) — including at least six formal competitions to keep the licence.
Though also regarded as "soft air weapons", airsoft guns are strictly prohibited in all states except in the Northern Territory (where they are considered regular airguns and subjected to the corresponding laws and licensing) and the ACT (where they are considered "imitation firearms").
The Brazilian legislation that regulates the manufacture, import, export, trade, traffic and use of airguns divide them into two groups:
- airguns by spring action or pre-compressed air (PCP - Pre Charged Pneumatic) of up to 6mm calibre;
- airguns by spring action or pre-compressed air (PCP - Pre Charged Pneumatic) of calibre exceeding 6mm; or pre-compressed gases that is not breathable air, such as CO2 and others, in any calibre.
Airguns in the first group may be purchased by anyone over 18. Airguns in the second group can only be purchased by people registered in the army, transportation depends on authorization, and usage is allowed only in places approved by the army. Airguns of any kind may not be carried openly. There is no muzzle energy limit for any type or calibre.
Scopes or any equipment with magnification needs to be registered by the army in the shooter's registry and accompany a traffic authorization, and are allowed to civilians only if under 6 times magnification and with the objective lens smaller than 36 millimeters. Scopes with magnification equal or above 6 times and/or over 35 milimeters, or equipment that mark the target (like laser sights), are restricted to civilians and allowed only for use by the army. The permitted equipment has to be registered in the civilian's document, this process is called "Apostilamento". The document for a shooter's registry is called "Certificado de Registro de Atirador".
Air guns can be freely bought and owned by any person older than 18 years old. Only pistols with muzzle energy exceeding 7.5 joules (5.5 ft⋅lbf) are not allowed. There is no maximum muzzle energy limit for rifles. Open carry of airguns is not allowed. The use of air guns is restricted non-public places, being shooting ranges, inside a house or a backyard that is not easily accessible from the street.
In Bulgaria anyone over the age of 18 can obtain an airgun if its muzzle energy is below that of 24 Joules. Weapons cannot be bought online.
Air guns with both a muzzle velocity greater than 152.4 meters per second (500 feet per second) and a muzzle energy greater than 5.7 joules (4.2 foot-pounds) are firearms for purposes of both the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Usually the manufacturer’s specifications are used to determine the design muzzle velocity and energy. Air rifles that meet these velocity and energy criteria are generally classified as non-restricted firearms; however, some are classified as restricted or prohibited, depending on the exact design of the air rifle. Air pistols are classified as restricted if their barrel is longer than 105 mm or prohibited if their barrel length is 105 mm or less. The lawful possession of these airguns requires that the owner have a valid firearms licence and that the airgun be registered as a firearm.
Air guns that meet the Criminal Code definition of a firearm, but that are deemed not to be firearms for certain purposes of the Firearms Act and Criminal Code are those that have a muzzle velocity of less than 152.4 meters per second (500 feet per second) and/or a maximum muzzle energy of 5.7 joules (4.2 foot pounds). Such air guns are exempt from licensing, registration, and other requirements under the Firearms Act, and from penalties set out in the Criminal Code for possessing a firearm without a valid licence or registration certificate. However, they are considered to be firearms under the Criminal Code if they are used to commit a crime. The simple possession, acquisition and use of these air guns for lawful purposes is regulated by provincial and municipal laws and by-laws. For example, some provinces may have set a minimum age for acquiring such an air gun. These air guns are exempt from the specific safe storage, transportation and handling requirements set out in the regulations supporting the Firearms Act. However, the Criminal Code requires that reasonable precautions be taken to use, carry, handle, store, transport, and ship them in a safe and secure manner.
Carrying one of these firearms is permitted for those aged 14 or older.
Suppressors for all firearms, including airguns, are prohibited in Canada.
In the Czech Republic anyone over age of 18 can acquire air gun with a muzzle energy not exceeding 16 joules (12 ft⋅lbf). Children over age of 10 have to be supervised by adult when shooting. The only restriction on shooting place is requirement of public safety. Since firearms can be used only at the officially licensed shooting ranges air guns became popular to practice target shooting at or near the home.
Air guns with a muzzle energy over 16 J (12 ft⋅lbf) require the same licence as firearms and police registration. Such air guns can be used only at the shooting ranges.
Since September 2013, air rifles with a muzzle energy less than 20 joules (14 ft lbf) can be acquired by persons over age 18 and no licence is required. (Previously the limit was 10 joules.) For air rifles of 20 joules muzzle energy or more, a hunting licence or club shooting licence is required. However, hunting or pest control with air guns is illegal in France.
In Germany, air guns producing a muzzle energy up to 7.5 joule (J) (5.53 ft·lbf) can be owned by persons from the age of 18 years and freely acquired provided they bear the "F-in-pentagon" mark" that indicates a muzzle energy not exceeding 7.5 J (5.5 ft⋅lbf) kinetic energy. Carrying air guns in public necessitates a carry permit (§ 10 Abs. 4 WaffG), extremely rare as such and never granted for air guns. Only the transportation of unloaded and non-accessible air guns (or carrying unloaded during biathlon) is considered a "permissible carry" (§ 12 Abs. 3 Nr. 2, Nr. 3 WaffG).
Shooting is permitted on licensed ranges (§ 27 Abs. 1, § 12 Abs. 4 2 Nr. 1 WaffG), and on enclosed private property if it is assured that the projectiles can not possibly leave the shooting area (§ 12 Abs. 4 Nr. 1a WaffG). The minimum age for air gun shooting in Germany is 12 years under supervision (§ 27 Abs. 3 S. 1 Nr. 1 WaffG), but exceptions may be granted to younger children upon request, supported by suitable references from a doctor and by a licensed shooting federation (§ 27 Abs. 4 WaffG).
Air weapons exceeding 7.5 J muzzle energy, e.g. field target guns, are treated like firearms and therefore require a relevant permit for acquisition and possession. Proof of need, a clean criminal record and the passing of a knowledge and handling test are required (§ 4 Abs. 1 WaffG) to gain the permit.
A purchase authorization is not required for air guns that were manufactured and introduced onto the market before 1 January 1970 in Germany or before 2 April 1991 on the territory of the former East Germany (WaffG, Appendix 2, Section 1, Subsection 2, 1.2); they can, regardless of their muzzle energy or the absence of an "F-in-pentagon" mark, be freely acquired and possessed.
The storage requirements for firearms do not apply to air guns (cf. § 36 Abs. 1 S. 1 WaffG); they must only be stored unaccessible to minors.
Isle of Man
In the Isle of Man, Air guns are treated in the same manner as conventional firearms and require a relevant firearms certificate.
In Italy, any mechanism that produces a muzzle energy higher than 1 joule (0.74 ft·lbf) and lower than 7.5 joules (5.53 ft·lbf) is considered a "low-power air gun"; the sale of such instruments is open to anyone over 18 years of age without licence or registration, but it can take place only in authorized gun shops where the owner must require the purchaser to provide his ID Card as a proof of age.
Any device developing a muzzle energy equal to, or higher than, 7.5 joules is considered a "high-power air gun", requiring Police licensing and registration for purchase and detention just like any firearm. Bows, crossbows and similar are exempt from this rule. The muzzle energy of such devices is certified by a governance office called "Banco di Prova". Air guns developing less than 1 joule of muzzle energy are categorized as airsoft, which are considered by law as toys, with no restriction whatsoever to their trade, except that they can never be modified to achieve a higher muzzle energy and must be only able to shoot 6 mm plastic pellets.
It is illegal to hunt with air guns.
In the Netherlands, air guns can be owned by persons from the age of 18 years and can freely be acquired. Until 1997 there were limitations on muzzle velocity and kinetic energy, similar to the German law, but these restrictions were lifted for practical reasons. Carrying air guns in public and the possession of air guns (and toy guns) that resemble firearms is prohibited. The expression "to resemble" is nowadays given a very broad interpretation so that just about any airgun can be considered to resemble a firearm. Whether an airgun is considered to resemble a firearm too closely is decided by the police or, when it comes to that, by the court. It is impossible to predict the outcome of such courtcases. Air guns may be kept in private homes but must be inaccessible for persons under 18. Commercial sales of airguns may only take place in licensed gunshops. It is illegal to own an airgun that was "produced or modified so that it can more easily be carried concealed". Generally this is considered the case when the barrel has been shortened or the weapon has a folding or telescoping stock.
In New Zealand any member of the public over the age of 18 may own and fire most air rifles without a firearms licence, provided they use the air rifle in a safe environment with a responsible attitude.
Minors 16 and over, but under the age of 18, require a Firearms Licence to possess an air rifle – however, they may use an air rifle under adult supervision without this licence.
Fully automatic airguns are forbidden.
"Specially dangerous airguns" require a firearms licence for possession and use. Such weapons are specified under the New Zealand Arms Acts, and currently include only some pre-charged pneumatic rifles. The change was made as a consequence of two fatal shootings by .22 calibre semi-automatic air rifles.
In Poland it is possible to freely acquire air guns with a muzzle energy not exceeding 17 joules (13 ft⋅lbf). Air guns with muzzle energy over 17 J are considered FAC and must be registered at a local police station no later than 5 days after purchase (a gun licence is not needed). FAC air guns can only be used at the officially licensed shooting ranges. Hunting/shooting animals with air guns is illegal and can lead to prosecution.
In Singapore, airguns are classified as 'arms', in the same category as firearms utilising gunpowder as propellant among other weapons. It is necessary to obtain a licence from the Singapore Police Force before one can import, export or own an airgun.
Airguns are defined as of "...calibre less that 5.6 mm (.22 calibre)..." and, "...muzzle energy less than 8 joules..." These do not require a licence, but those of higher calibre or power are considered firearms.
Airguns still count as firearms if used in a crime, and can't be fired or exposed in public areas. Airguns may be carried on one's person concealed, not openly. It is an offense to shoot animals and human beings, except criminals and animals which are attacking you. It must also be carried in a bag, not on your body, otherwise it is an offence.
In Sweden, airguns are regarded as firearms, and generally require a licence. Limited energy weapons, such as airguns and paintball guns and are however licence free, but may not be used by a minor under 18 years of age, unless licensed or under adult supervision. Limited energy weapons may not have a muzzle energy exceeding 10 J measured four metres from the muzzle. Fully automatic limited energy weapons may not exceed 3 J.
Air pistols generating more than 6 ft·lbf (8.1 J) and air rifles generating more than 12 ft·lbf (16.2 J) of muzzle energy are legally termed "specifically dangerous firearms". As a result, ownership of these air rifles requires the possession of a Firearm Certificate (FAC); however, ownership of such air pistols is prohibited as they are defined as "Prohibited Weapons" under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. (Section 5 Authority is usually only granted to members of the Gun Trade.)
Pistols and rifles below these energy levels are still termed firearms and are dealt with under the Firearms Act, but do not require licensing in England and Wales, and may be purchased by anyone over the age of 18. Pistols and rifles under 0.737 ft·lbf (1 J) are not included under firearms regulations in the UK but do fall under the VCR act. In Northern Ireland any air rifle or air pistol generating more than 0.737 ft·lbf (1 J) is considered a firearm  and as such requires a FAC. In Scotland, the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 introduced an air weapon certificate in Scotland, which anyone owning an air weapon is now required to hold.
The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 prohibits online or mail-order sale of new air guns in the UK. UK transactions for new items from retail UK shops must be finalised face-to-face, either at the shop where purchased, or through a Registered Firearms Dealer (to which an item may be posted and the transfer completed). Since February 2011, The Crime & Security Act 2010 (S.46) made it an offence "...for a person in possession of an air weapon to fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent any person under the age of eighteen from having the weapon with him...". This legislation essentially relates to the storage of air guns and the requirement of owners to prevent unauthorised access by children. Failure to do so renders owners liable for a fine of up to £1,000.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives states that:
- 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.
Although the federal government does not normally regulate air guns, some state and local governments do; the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has compiled a list of states and selected municipalities that regulate air guns, finding that 23 states and the District of Columbia regulate air guns to some degree. Two states (New Jersey and Rhode Island) define all non-powder guns as firearms; one state (Illinois) defines certain high-power and/or large calibre non-powder guns as firearms; three states (Connecticut, Delaware and North Dakota) define non-powder guns as dangerous weapons (but not firearms). The remaining states which regulate air guns impose age restrictions on possession, use, or transfer of non-powder guns, and/or explicitly regulate possession of non-powder guns on school grounds.
New York City has a restrictive municipal ordinance regulating air guns. Air guns were previously banned in San Francisco, but a state preemption statute struck down the ban, and the San Francisco District Attorney declared them legal as long as they are in compliance with state law.
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