P.E.I. airsoft gun seller fears federal bill will shut down his business

·4 min read
Airsoft guns, such as these for sale at Andy's Airsoft on P.E.I., resemble real guns so much that it can be difficult for police to tell them apart. (Submitted by Andrew Hardy - image credit)
Airsoft guns, such as these for sale at Andy's Airsoft on P.E.I., resemble real guns so much that it can be difficult for police to tell them apart. (Submitted by Andrew Hardy - image credit)

A man who runs an airsoft gun supply business on P.E.I. says he will have to close his shop if the federal government's Bill C-21 on firearms passes.

Andrew Hardy runs Andy's Airsoft, which sells airsoft guns, a type of replica gun used in the competitive team shooting sport called airsoft.

Airsoft guns are similar to paintball guns, but instead shoot small plastic or biodegradable pellets. Often, they are designed to look like genuine firearms.

"Ninety per cent of airsoft guns look like some form of real gun or other, and that's what the bill bans," Hardy told host Mitch Cormier on Island Morning.

"So essentially, airsoft will be banned in Canada. There's really only one or two models that don't look like real guns and they're not very popular. So it'll kill my store."

Hardy is part of an airsoft group on P.E.I. that he said has between 130 and 140 members.

He said he and others involved in the sport are trying to educate politicians about how the proposed bill will affect them.

Talk to us. Don't just ban us outright without even giving us a chance to show our say. — Andrew Hardy, owner of Andy's Airsoft

"A lot of the politicians we talked to have never even heard of airsoft, don't know what it's really for. They don't realize that we play it as a sport," said Hardy.

Andrew Hardy says a lot of politicians he's spoken with don't know about the airsoft sport or the people who play it.
Andrew Hardy says a lot of politicians he's spoken with don't know about the airsoft sport or the people who play it. (Submitted by Andrew Hardy)

"There's thousands of players all over Canada and hundreds of stores, lots of people ... getting into it."

A written statement to CBC News from the federal Department of Justice said that only airsoft guns that "exactly resemble a regulated firearm" are affected by the bill.

"Expanding the prohibition on replica firearms to also include airguns that exactly resemble a regulated firearm would address a gap in the law and protect public safety," the statement reads in part.

Charlottetown Liberal MP Sean Casey told Cormier there are good reasons to include replica firearms in Bill C-21, but he believes, after speaking with Hardy, that the bill as it stands goes too far.

MP says bill 'overreaches'

"The problem with replica guns is that when the police see one of these, it's impossible to differentiate between a replica gun and the actual gun, and they have to treat the situation as if it is an actual gun," said Casey.

"It isn't just the military-style assault replicas that are being banned by this bill; it's anything that resembles a firearm … An airsoft replica of a hunting rifle is banned, and that's wrong and that's overreaching," he said.

Hardy said he doesn't sell airsoft guns to anyone under 18.

The airsoft game uses small biodegradable pellets.
The airsoft game uses small biodegradable pellets.(Joe Pavia/CBC)

When he sells one, he said he goes over the safety issues with his customers, and explains that it's a federal offence to scare the public with it.

He also encourages people to keep the airsoft gun in its box or hidden away unless it's in use.

"As long as it's not being seen — like, if you're in the Walmart parking lot and you got it in the backseat, of course, that can cause concern," said Hardy.

"You just want to always make sure it's in a box or in the case, unless you're on the paintball field, out to play."

Seller wants to 'keep playing our sport'

Hardy would like to see the federal government amend the bill.

"Amend it just to give airsoft a little hole, a little place to live so that we can keep playing our sport," he said.

"Talk to us. Don't just ban us outright without even giving us a chance to [have] our say."

Casey said the bill was introduced into Parliament on second reading on Feb. 26, and if it passes, it will go to committee for a detailed study.

"It's at that stage where people like Andrew Hardy and those in the airsoft business will have an opportunity to come before the public safety committee to lay out their concerns, to suggest changes to make the bill better," said Casey.

"And quite frankly, I hope that their input will result in some common-sense changes to the bill."

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