Dear Lifehacker, are blank-firing airsoft guns legal in NSW? I was wondering this because I want to make a mini action movie on my YouTube channel. All the rules I read online conflict with each other! Thanks, Australian McGuyver
Lara Croft picture from Shutterstock
Dear AM, This is a topic we've touched on before. Unfortunately, Australia's airsoft laws are quite strict compared to the rest of the world; particularly in NSW.
Any gun replica that could be reasonably mistaken for the real thing is legally classified as an imitation firearm in Australia. This includes toys, ornaments, video game peripherals and -- yes -- airsoft products. Unlawful possession of airsoft goodies can result in prosecution for weapons related offences. No really.
Despite posing no more danger than the average Nerf gun enthusiast, airsoft owners are supposed to apply for a firearms license and fill out an Australian Customs' B709 Importation of Firearms certification form prior to purchase.
Even then, most states prohibit use of airsoft guns for a range of bureaucratic reasons. For example, in Victoria you can't import airsoft "weapons" due to there being no official airsoft firing ranges -- according to the law, this means there is no genuine reason to own one. Similarly, Tasmania has banned them on the grounds that their use constitutes a "simulated military exercise" which is heavily restricted under Tasmanian law.
In addition to this, certain airsoft models are banned outright in all states and territories. This includes guns with folding or detachable stocks, guns capable of fully automatic fire and guns that outwardly resemble a sub-machine gun or machine pistol -- pretty much everything you would want to use in a movie. Oddly, many of these models are categorised as actual prohibited firearms despite having no lethal capability.
As far as we can tell, the Northern Territory appears to be the only place in Australia where the rules are somewhat relaxed. It's perfectly legal to own an airsoft gun there, although you'll still need the correct firearms licence. Tch, eh?
Even if you managed to jump through all legal the hoops and moved to the Northern Territory you still couldn't import one. Airsoft weapons are defined as a prohibited import under schedule 6 of the Customs Prohibited Imports Regulations 1956. In other words, you would need to find a local supplier.
We would also advise against using movie props without a proper licence; especially if the model in question fires blanks. 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
With that said, most gun replica stores will happily accept orders with no questions asked. Usually, the website will contain a caveat that it's the buyer's responsibility to ensure they have the required permits; but you don't actually have to provide any proof.
Just bear in mind that you will be breaking the law by going down this route. This definitely isn't something I'd want to trust to mail delivery -- especially for overseas purchases that need to clear Customs.
Currently, the maximum penalty for importing imitation firearms without import approval is $275,000 and/or imprisonment for 10 years. Maybe downgrade your hero's weapon of choice to a machete? Hey, it worked for Danny Trejo!
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