Hi Lifehacker, Following on from your recent discussion about the legality of Airsoft guns, a similar question: What are the rules about importing movie or prop replica guns? Do I need a special licence, even though they're not functional? And what actually constitutes a 'replica'? (As opposed to a toy gun?) Thanks, Lethal Weapon
Replica guns picture from Shutterstock
Any gun replica that could be reasonably mistaken for the real thing is legally classified as an imitation firearm in Australia. This includes ornaments, realistic toys and even video game peripherals. While you don't always need a firearm permit to own a gun replica (it depends on the state you're in and the type of product you want to buy), there are still restrictions and penalties in place to limit their importation.
Here's what the Australian Customs And Border Protection Service has to say on the legalities of importing imitation firearms:
To import imitation firearms into Australia, importers must first obtain written certification from the police firearms or weapons registry in their State or Territory. This certification will be in the form of a B709A Importation of Firearms – Police Confirmation and Certification Form (B709A Form).
The original police certification must be presented to Customs and Border Protection at importation. Imitation firearms do not have to undergo safety testing and do not require a unique serial number
In other words, you need to jump through many of the same hoops as an airsoft enthusiast despite the fact that replicas do not fire projectiles. That said, many overseas suppliers won't be aware of Australia's imitation firearm laws, or simply couldn't care less. We contacted a movie prop store in the UK and they seemed all to happy to sell us an imitation shotgun with no questions asked.
Indeed, even gun replica stores in Australia will usually accept local business. For example, Wellington Surplus Stores in Western Australia offers a fearsomely realistic arsenal that can be purchased online just like any other commercial product.
To cover itself, the website includes the following disclaimer: "Please note that some items we sell may be illegal or require permits in your location, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are permitted to purchase these items prior to ordering." But there are no actual restrictions on what you can buy.
Getting a gun replica sent directly to your door therefore isn't difficult — but you will be breaking the law and the risk probably isn't worth it. The maximum penalty for importing imitation firearms without import approval is currently $275,000 and/or imprisonment for 10 years.
If you need a replica gun for a movie and would prefer not to deal with Customs, you could always buy a plastic gun from your local toy store and paint it black. This obviously wont hold up to close scrutiny but it should look passable on video — just don't wave it around in public or you could end up in legal strife or shot dead by police.