Unless you’ve kept up with the UK airsoft scene, you might not know a whole lot about the laws that have been put upon airsoft in the UK, and how to deal with them when buying/selling airsoft guns. So in a nutshell here is a bit of a guide to what has gone on and how to trade safely and legally, particularly when dealing with second hand sales of airsoft guns to the UK.
In 2006, the Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA) was passed which essentially banned the sale of ‘realistic imitation firearms’ (RIFs) and restricted the sale of ‘imitation firearms’ (IFs) in the UK. The difference between the two being that a RIF is something that looks in every way like a real firearm, and an IF is commonly considered to be a RIF that is 51% coloured in a luminous colour like neon green/pink/yellow/blue. In short, under 18’s cannot buy RIFs at all and cannot obtain a defence under the VCRA to purchase one. Anyone over 18 can obtain a defence under the VCRA by taking part in three skirmishes in NO LESS than 2 months (this is key, it does not mean you must skirmish 3 times in 2 months). Once you have this, you can happily purchase as many RIFs as you want. The most common way to prove you have this defence is to be part of UKARA and have a UKARA number, however this is not a legal requirement. If you can prove you have a defence in another way – skirmisher diary, contact details for your regular site, PASS etc that is also acceptable, and too many people make the mistake of saying you need to have a UKARA number to buy, when you don’t. So now that is out of the way, how does it work in practice.
How it impacts Manx airsofters
Well being on the Isle of Man, the VCRA does and doesn’t effect us. If the transaction is between two Manx airsofters, on the Isle of Man, then you can conduct that as normal. When it comes it buying RIFs (either second hand or new from a retailer) from the UK, it also has no effect upon us and the seller can freely sell to you without fear of breaking the law, and all the retailers worth bothering with will know this in the UK and now often have a shipping option as the IOM so if a website forces you to enter a VCRA number, just enter ‘N/a – IOM’ and so long as your shipping address is the IOM all will going swimmingly. Some of the HK sites even know this too, like Redwolf and eHobbyAsia (although sometimes you have to send them a clarification email).
The tricky bit comes when you are selling RIFs into the UK, because then you are bound by the VCRA and must prove that the buyer has a valid defence. There are some simple ways of doing this, firstly you can only conduct your sales through the Zero In forums. Now whilst those forums are filled with fuckwits of the highest calibre, their classifieds do provide a certain level of support for selling second hand, mainly because if you are conducting a sale on their forums, you just need to contact Zero One Airsoft with a link to your sale, and the UKARA details of the person buying from you (registration number and post code) and they will confirm if they are active on the database and therefore have a defence, meaning you can sell to them. However, you must ensure that you only ship the RIF to the address to which that UKARA is registered, if someone gives you a different address to send the RIF to to the one they are registered to, do not do this.
However if you are selling on Facebook, a lot more of the responsibility is on you to verify these details. The best way to do this for UKARA is to use the Self Check feature, which can be found at: http://www.ukaraselfcheck.co.uk/ and will tell you if they are on the database – again, only ship the RIF to their registered address. If they don’t have UKARA, you can still sell to them, but the process becomes a bit more drawn out. This is when you have to start getting into contact with skirmish sites etc to make sure they do indeed have a valid defence. I have personally done this for two sales, for two different individuals and it was purely a case of asking them who their regular skirmish site operator is and getting in touch with them – be that calling them, dropping them an email, or facebook messaging the skirmish site’s page or the owner. If they confirm that they are indeed a regular skirmisher (by which they mean satisfies the 3 games in not less than 2 months), then you can continue onwards with the sale.
What the VCRA does and does not effect
It covers the following:
Complete rifles – regardless of how they are powered.
Pistols – again regardless of how they are powered.
Grenade launchers – Items like M203s and rotary grenade launchers are included under the VCRA.
Fantasy guns – If a member of the public could consider it to be a real firearm then it is covered, so the law covers things like the M41a Pulse Rifle or any of the Manga/Anime inspired rifles that exist.
What is not covered:
Tactical gear – any gear or clothing is free to trade by anyone, to anyone, as they wish
Internal parts – freely buy and sell any internal parts
External parts that do not constitute a completed rifle – If you are selling something like a metal body, a rail, a barrel, a stock, or any optics and accessories like PEQs, you can trade these freely. If what you’re selling is basically a full gun minus a flash hider or some other minor part then you need to get the buyer to provide you a VCRA defence because for all intents and purposes what you are selling is a realistic imitation firearm.
As a disclaimer for myself, I am not a lawyer and all of the above is solely my opinion and experience and any actions taken based on them is taken at your own risk and is your responsibility to ensure that you are abiding by the applicable laws.
Hopefully this helps a few people navigate a purchase or a sale.