BB guns look like real guns. They are designed to fire 6mm spherical projectiles (BBs) of different weights using a variety of methods. Spring-action guns usually fire plastic BBs. More powerful BB guns (used in airsoft skirmishing) use compressed gas propellants or batteries and fire lead, steel plated with zinc or copper projectiles. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 provides details of colour requirements for imitation BB guns which differentiates them from realistic imitation firearms (RIFs). BB guns can only be held by those over 18. It is an offence to carry an imitation gun in a public place without a legitimate reason. It is an offence to modify an imitation firearm to make it realistic.
See 'Gun Law' pages.
IDENTIFICATION Because BB guns look like real guns it can be impossible to tell without close examination if a gun being brandished during an incident is real or a BB, imitation, airsoft, replica, toy or paintball gun or an airgun*. Victims of armed crime are traumatised and not surprisingly unable to identify the gun being used to assault them. Media reporting is unreliable and unless guns are fired or recovered and can be authenticated they are categorised as ‘unidentified’. Many press reports which refer to ‘handguns’ or ‘shotguns’ are likely to involve BBs imitation, replica, airguns* and other non-licensed guns which look like weapons that fire live ammunition.
The Office of National Statistics have published data relating to 2015 which demonstrates that over 80% of offences involving imitation firearms involved BB guns or soft air weapons.
Airsoft weapons are used in airsoft skirmishing activities and are exact replicas of prohibited guns and the most dangerous military weapons. Airsoft gun enthusiasts acquire collections of replica airsoft guns and dress up and use them in simulated military situations acting out violent combat warrier fantasies.
1. BB GUNS - FATALITIES
There have been several instances where an individual carrying a BB or other non-licensed gun has been shot by police, sometimes with fatal consequences.
2. BB GUNS - VIOLENT CRIME
BB and other non-licensed guns are frequently used to enable crimes including armed robbery, domestic violence, intimidation, drug related, threat, drive-by random shootings and vandalism. Victims fear they are about to die and the consequences are traumatic and can be long lasting. Incidents can require police investigation, hospital treatment, court costs, insurance and repairs. Victims and families endure pain and suffering, time off work, loss of income and disruption to daily life. BB gun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the tax payer. (See 5)
3. BB GUNS – CRIMINALS BANNED FROM OWNING GUNS CAN STILL BUY BB GUNS
Criminals banned by the courts from possessing guns, and those banned from possessing guns by virtue of having served prison sentences, can still buy BB and other non-licenced guns on line from international suppliers, UK dealers and private sellers, forums, websites, newspapers and magazines and at car boot sales, no background checks are required.
4. BB GUNS – MENTAL HEALTH, ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
BB guns can be bought by individuals suffering from mental health issues and those involved in alcohol and drug abuse, no background checks are required.
5. BB GUNS – CRIMINAL DAMAGE, VANDALISM, ANIMAL CRUELTY AND COST TO THE PUBLIC
Incidents of criminal damage, vandalism to public and private buildings and animal cruelty are difficult to investigate and criminal prosecutions are rare. In cases of animal cruelty farmers, pet owners and animal charities are faced with considerable veterinary costs. There are financial cost implications for society and for individuals in terms of police time, the judiciary, insurance, local authority services, time off work, disruption to daily life, commerce, industry, transport. BB gun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer.
6. BB GUNS - IRRESPONSIBLE STORAGE AND THEFT
BB and other non-licensed guns are not subject to any safe storage conditions. They are left in cupboards and drawers in homes, sheds, outhouses, vehicles, caravans and boats etc. where security is inadequate and they are stolen by petty criminals.
*The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill
The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2015 and received the Royal Assent in August 2015. Under the provisions of the Act it will be an offence for a person to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon in Scotland without holding an air weapon certificate.
See 'Gun Law' pages for details of legislation.