Ask LH: Is It Legal To Import Replica Guns?

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

Dear LW,

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.

Cheers Lifehacker


Comments

    Funny story about important things.. You know that show. Boarder Security? How they catch like knives and gun replicas and weird shit like that?

    Well, years and years ago, i, as a silly teenager, bought movie prop replica knives (from the Chronicles of Riddick, if you know what we're talking about).

    Anyway, i didn't even THINK about it when i bought them, they arrived, they were awesome, they were also SHARP.. like.. really sharp.. like.. i'm surprised i didn't get arrested for these things..

    Less than a year ago i bought a replica for a friend, they are 'lemon grenades' from the Portal game series. It was a fake, plastic lemon with (apparently) part of a real grenade (the pin assemble/hammer etc) to make it look real.

    I got a letter from customs saying they confiscated it because it was real and that continued attempts to import such items would result in legal action..

    So moral of this story is.. if you don't get caught its fine. Also real, actually sharp knives are less likely to be caught and held than one part of a grenade shoved into a plastic lemon..

    The more your knooooooow~

      If you appealed that you would have got your lemon grenades through. The fly off lever design and hammer of a grenade isn't illegal, in fact it is the actuation of many, many emergency and safety devices the world over--things which cannot be legislated against under the UN conventions--and are entirely completely and utterly safe, even if it had a fuse and detonator within it (rendering a 'pop' sound if you pulled the pin and let the lever fly off) it would still be entirely safe per the legislation. Customs will BS their way through, and what customs considered illegal doesn't always match up to the reality of things.

        I considered it, the reasoning was that it 'could be used to construct explosive devices' i assume like.. they thought i was going to build grenades? I dunno.

        Basically the letter said i could appeal but i'd have to pay legal fees and if i lost there would be penalties and whatnot and it wasn't a HUGE deal.. and at the time i just didn't want to risk it

    I would recommend taking this down.

    The information is wrong. In many jurisdictions you require a license for a replica firearm.

    Additionally, your information about Wellington Surplus Stores is wrong.

    For example to purchase most of the modern replica weapons on the website the following message can be found:
    "NSW, NT, SA & VIC residents will be required to supply a copy of their licence or permit before this item is supplied."

    That brings me right back to my original statement, "The information is wrong. In many jurisdictions you require a license for a replica firearm."

    Firearms legislation is applied by each State and Territory. In NSW for example, provisions regarding replica firearms are made under the Firearms Act 1996. A copy of this document can be found here:
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/fa1996102/

    Additionally, a fact sheet for imitation firearms from the NSW Police can be found here:
    http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/services/firearms/permits/firearms_permits/imitation

    Importation is handled by the Federal Government and is a separate matter altogether.

    You have presented this article as fact to your viewers. My issue is with the following sentence, "While you don’t need a firearm permit to own a gun replica, there are still restrictions and penalties in place to limit their importation."

    Whilst I do not need to use Google to find this information it certainly would have benefited you.

    Here is an article describing what happens to people who read your article, thinking that you have conducted the necessary research, order a replica firearm, have it shipped domestically and then get caught:
    http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/news/media_release_archive?sq_content_src=%2BdXJsPWh0dHBzJTNBJTJGJTJGZWJpenByZC5wb2xpY2UubnN3Lmdvdi5hdSUyRm1lZGlhJTJGMzI1MzIuaHRtbCZhbGw9MQ%3D%3D

    This site is slipping...

      Replica firearms are defined by the Australian Customs And Border Protection Service as "a copy or reproduction or has the appearance of a firearm that could reasonably be taken to be a firearm." As mentioned this can include arcade game controllers, which obviously do not require a gun permit.

      The government fact sheet that we quoted from also makes no mention of needing a permit, which is a bit odd. That said, I acknowledge that a permit is required in some states and have amended the article to reflect this. Cheers for spotting the error.

      As for Wellington Superstores, I went through the process of ordering right up until the final step (i.e. - confirmation of payment). At no point was I told that a licence or permit was required to receive my purchase. I'd be very surprised if they sprung that condition on you after payment.

      I already highlighted the potential penalties for importing imitation firearms without permission and concluded that it's not worth the risk. So linking police arrests to "people who read your article" isn't particularly fair. Anyways, thanks for the feedback.

        /bow

    good ol wellington surplus. i bought a replica .44 magnum from an ad in some magazine in about 1987.
    theres something not right about a 15yo kid being able to do that, of course i didnt think that at the time.
    sold it not long after. always wish i hadnt.

    As somebody who went through this, I can say that it's not a terribly painful process - more of an annoyance than anything.

    My experience of this was when I wanted to bring back a Transformers Masterpiece Megatron toy from Japan, which transforms from a robot into a comically oversized replica of a Walter P-38. However, it was deemed at the time to be a replica firearm according to Australian law, and people trying to import them without thinking were getting them confiscated left, right and centre.

    So I jumped through the hoops and organised the necessary permit, but I forgot to get the import license so customs held onto it while I got that sorted out. But everything after that was peachy.

    Note: in addition to the all the permits, etc. you also need to comply with the "Safe Storage Requirements" to ensure that your replica doesn't get nicked and used for nefarious purposes.

    I wrote a little bit more about the process and experience over on my blog: http://www.cyberseraphic.com/2009/12/i-am-megatron/

    "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." It's idiots like you who ruin it for the rest of us. It's up to the buyer, or importer, to check the legislation in their area. If you were to force every company to research the laws of every backwater country and state they ship to the worlds commerce would grind to a halt. Your logic is fallacious and your premises are patently absurd. You are, also, major douche bags for even doing that, or raising the issue in that manner. Now the nanny staters will be screaming about 'that website that tried to import a shotgun from the UK who were happy to mail it to them' for the next forty years until all firearms are outlawed. Even laser tag guns require licenses the same as real guns now, it's psychotic.

    Firstly; "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 makes the toy an illegal firearm. The second you paint a plastic kids toy black it's a handgun. I attempted to register one for a film we were shooting (and to blog about how ridiculous our gun laws are in Australia), after hearing time and time again that the reason we went from B-Hollywood in the late 90's to having no movies made here anymore was 100% because of the gun laws, the simple fact it costs three times as much PER DAY to hire an armorer and their blank firing replicas than it does to buy the ACTUAL FIREARM IN QUESTION made the cost too prohibitive. Companies found they were spending half their movie budget just on prop guns, and when they only had a handful of said guns in their entire film it just became too much of an infringement on their time, money, and an offense to their liberty; especially when they come from one of the many hundreds of sane countries where firearms aren't inherently legislated against. We are a minority, primarily because of baby boomer extreme hard line left (and equally extreme right) nanny state crazies.

    "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." It's idiots like you who ruin it for the rest of us. It's up to the buyer, or importer, to check the legislation in their area. If you were to force every company to research the laws of every backwater country and state they ship to the worlds commerce would grind to a halt. Your logic is fallacious and your premises are patently absurd. You are, also, major douche bags for even doing that, or raising the issue in that manner. Now the nanny staters will be screaming about 'that website that tried to import a shotgun from the UK who were happy to mail it to them' for the next forty years until all firearms are outlawed. Even laser tag guns require licenses the same as real guns now, it's psychotic.

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