Massachusetts has introduced a new proposal (Bill H3476) which alters the definition of an "imitation firearm" in the Commonwealth and introduces strict penalties to the sale or use of the newly defined "imitation firearm."
I elaborate below, however for us airsofters, this bill effectively makes the sale or use of airsoft replicas illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It also gives law enforcement the ability to confiscate any newly defined "imitation firearm" which is not being used solely for theatrical or film production.
Here is a petition you can sign (in or out of state) to fight back against this law and help save the airsoft community: http://savemassairsoft.tk/
Below is a letter I wrote to express my disagreement with Bill H3476 as well as a link to a cleanly formatted version:
Dear Massachusetts representative,
I would like to express my opinion on Bill H3476, in which I respectfully disagree with the direction it takes in aiming to reduce violence that may be caused by (the proposed new definition of) "imitation firearms". Furthermore, I would like to explain the reasoning for my opinion and offer a possible idea for an alternate direction to reduce violence that may be caused by "imitation firearms" or firearm look-alikes without the negative side effects on both the local community and growing local businesses which are present in Bill H3476.
"SECTION 19. Section 121 of chapter 140 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 1, the figure "131P" and inserting in place thereof the following figure:- 131Q."
The Act listed above implemented the current definition of an "imitation firearm" in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. According to figure 131Q in chapter 140 section 121 of the General Laws, the current definition of an "imitation firearm" is: ''Imitation firearm'', any weapon which is designed, manufactured or altered in such a way as to render it incapable of discharging a shot or bullet. For further clarification, the current definition of a "weapon" in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts according to figure 131Q in chapter 140 section 121 of the General Laws is: ''Weapon'', any rifle, shotgun or firearm.
This being said, the current definition of an "imitation firearm" in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts only includes "weapons" which were modified to no longer discharge bullets.
Bill H3476 proposes three sections of change to General Law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The first two of these sections act to change the current definition of an "imitation firearm" in section 121 of chapter 140 to the definition stated below:
"Imitation firearm", any air rifle or hand gun, pellet gun or "B-B" gun or any device or object made of plastic, wood, metal or any other material which substantially duplicates or can reasonably be perceived to be an actual firearm, rifle, shotgun, air rifle or hand gun, pellet gun, or "B-B" gun, unless such air rifle or hand gun, pellet gun, "B-B" gun or device or object: (i) is colored other than black, blue, silver or aluminum; (ii) is marked with a non-removable orange stripe which is at least 1 inch in width and runs the entire length of the barrel on each side and the front end of the barrel; and (iii) has a barrel at least 1 inch in diameter that is closed for a distance of not less than one-half inch from the front-end of its barrel with the same material of which the imitation firearm is made. "Imitation firearm" does not include any non-firing replica of an antique firearm, the original of which was designed, manufactured and produced prior to 1898.
The third section of Bill H3476 acts to change section 121 of chapter 140 of General Law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to include the Section 131R as an amendment to Section 131Q. This change would implement strict regulations on the sale and use of the newly defined "imitation firearms" in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Section 131R is stated as the following:Section 131R. (a) No person shall import, manufacture, sell, hold for sale or distribute within the state any imitation firearm unless such device is imported, manufactured, sold, held for sale and distributed: (i) solely for subsequent transportation in interstate commerce; or (ii) solely for lawful use in a theatrical production, including a motion picture, television or stage production.(b) A violation of subsection (a) shall constitute an unfair or deceptive trade act or practice under section 2 of chapter 93A.(c) A law enforcement officer may confiscate any imitation firearm from a person in possession thereof unless the person is possessing the imitation firearmi) solely for subsequent transportation in interstate commerce; or (ii) solely for lawful use in a theatrical production, including a motion picture, television or stage production.
Upon reading this new Bill, I have detected several problems relating to different areas of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Namely that this new Bill would negatively impact: local small businesses, local communities and public safety as well as hinder personal development in people taking part in hobbies or sports now negatively affected by this new Bill.
On the topic of public safety, this Bill would effectively outlaw the sale or use of any newly defined "imitation firearm" in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, however this Bill will allow objects which visually resemble "weapons" to be used publically as long as they abide by the exceptions (i, ii and iii) listed in the proposed definition of an "imitation firearm" in the new Bill H3476. The problem with this is that it creates a false sense of security for objects that look like "weapons" yet are colored differently or have an orange stripe down the barrel. This new Bill will enable any person in possession of a real "weapon" (not an "imitation firearm") to change the external coloration or add a long orange stripe down the barrel and transport that real "weapon" to public places. Now, while this new bill does present a new horrific public safety concern, this new Bill does not make a positive change in society through the behavior of the law abiding citizen majority (the group who will follow the law of this new Bill) who own "weapons" or the newly defined "imitation firearms" legally. Legally owned "weapons" or "imitation firearms" are already not brought out into, used or brandished in public areas with the exception of legal concealed carry license holders, which in this case the legally owned "weapons" are not visually brandished or maliciously used. However, this reality presented in the new Bill H3476 will enable criminals or people in possession of "weapons" illegally to more easily bring them into public places and use them for harm by simply applying colored spray paint and neon tape, as easily obtainable examples, to actual "weapons". Conversely, if a criminal wanted to portray a legal exception to an "imitation firearm", under the proposed new definition in Bill H3476, in a threatening way, all he or she has to do is buy a can of black spray paint and the proposed law is rendered ineffective. Due to these realities, under Bill H3476, real "weapons" (not "imitation firearms") are allowed to be more easily transported, brandished and used publically for malicious intent in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under the assumption that they are legal exceptions to the newly defined "imitation firearm". Furthermore, the coloration required for exceptions to the newly defined group of "imitation firearms" will have no effect at reducing malicious intent with any firearm look-alike. Effectively, this law not only does nothing to change the course of action of people with a malicious intended use of the newly defined "imitation firearms" or the listed exceptions, but also presents greater public danger of real "weapons". This will only weaken public safety in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a whole, along with having many other negative side effects (explained below). The single positive affect this law may possibly have is that children, or people under the age of 18, who are publically brandishing these newly defined exceptions of "imitation firearms" will have the legal toys identified easier, limiting the number of times that toys or firearm look-alikes are mistaken for real "weapons". However, below I have addressed this exact issue and proposed an amendment which would effectively remove the possibility of putting these innocent children and people under the age of 18 in harm's way in the first place, without the other negative side effects of Bill H3476. Furthermore, in reality, the use of exceptions to "imitation firearms", according to the newly proposed definition in Bill H3476, in public places will not be any safer after this Bill is enacted, for adults or children, nullifying the previous "single positive affect" of the new Bill H3476. This is due to the reality pointed out above, that this Bill allows real "weapons" to masquerade as legal exceptions to newly defined "imitation firearms". Police officers and law enforcement officials will, as a result of this reality, still have to treat these newly defined "imitation firearm" legal exceptions as if they were real "weapons".
On the topic of local small businesses and communities, Bill H3476 would outlaw the sale and use of airsoft replicas in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Since any replica firearm or toy that does not have "(iii) has a barrel at least 1 inch in diameter that is closed for a distance of not less than one-half inch from the front-end of its barrel with the same material of which the imitation firearm is made." is considered an "imitation firearm" under the newly proposed definition in Bill H3476, it will not be able to be sold or used in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts outside a theatrical production (motion picture, television or stage). This means that any air rifle, pellet gun, BB gun, realistic paintball gun, rubber band gun or airsoft replica will automatically be classified as an "imitation firearm" and be illegal to sell or use since they cannot possibly launch their respective projectiles with "a barrel...that is closed for a distance of not less than one-half inch from the front-end of its barrel with the same material of which the imitation firearm is made." This will cause small businesses relating to the airsoft hobby, sport and community in Massachusetts to shut down and fail, resulting in a loss of jobs and the destruction of a section of the local economy. If airsoft replicas cannot be sold, stores and vendors will go out of business. If airsoft replicas cannot be used on private property or legal fields or arenas, these fields and arenas will also go out of business. Additionally, local airsoft fields in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts hold very popular events attracting participants from all over the United States as well as from outside of the country. The failure of these fields would negatively affect Massachusetts tourism. The loss of businesses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the illegality of the use of airsoft replicas in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts translates to the destruction of the local community which has formed surrounding the hobby, business and sport. The local airsoft community is a growing, inclusive and positive group spanning throughout all of Massachusetts among ages 10-50 and over. It encourages honor, honesty and respect throughout its members due to the nature of the sport. The local airsoft community also promotes positive leadership roles, healthy exercise, group work, setting and accomplishing goals as a community, overcoming challenges and forming friendships among Massachusetts peers. All of these aspects strengthen the bond of Massachusetts citizens and advance the social scene of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The airsoft community even offers relief to Massachusetts citizens suffering from PTSD, gained from fighting for the armed forces and serving our country, as airsoft in its nature is a military simulation based sport. Destroying this local airsoft community and all of its positive affects is only one example of the less obvious negative effects Bill H3476 will have on citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
On the topic of personal development, I would like to introduce myself and briefly discuss how the airsoft sport and hobby, which would become illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under the new Bill H3476, has positively affected my life as well as how it could possibly be affecting the lives of other Massachusetts citizens, advancing the Commonwealth. My name is Ryan Fischer and I am a voting age resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as a student at Phillips Academy, Andover. The sport and hobby of airsoft has given me innumerable experiences and helped me develop a multitude of positive qualities that have advanced my life socially, physically and educationally. Socially, I have become a leader in the local community as well as the head of multiple online communities and forums, both local to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and nationally across the United States. I have made many close friends throughout the airsoft community and have developed personal as well as business connections. Physically, I use the sport as a means to work out with friends and stay in shape, keeping my body healthy in a positive environment. Educationally, I have taken away vast knowledge of mechanical systems. I have learned and taught myself the inner workings (mechanics, electrics, physics, etc) of the airsoft replicas and build them as a hobby. My developed interest in building these complex mechanical systems has translated to my education at Phillips Academy as well as my college and major choices, further affecting the future of Massachusetts educational and economic environments. As far as the economical aspect of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I have personally already acquired an engineering internship as a high school student, in which I was employed by Teradyne in North Reading, Massachusetts last summer and I plan to acquire another engineering internship this upcoming summer. The airsoft community has not only caused my interest in education of the mechanical and electrical engineering field but also served as a catalyst to apply my knowledge to advance the status of Massachusetts' educational and economical environment. This is only one brief example of a single person in the airsoft community within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Destroying this positive community with Bill H3476 will only negatively affect the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and hinder other hopeful youths, as well as adults, who use the sport as a means to advance social skills, education, physical health and the economy.
An alternate to Bill H3476 which would avoid its negative effects on public safety, local businesses, the local community and the Massachusetts citizen would be to follow Mayor Walsh's example in Boston where he signed an ordinance, backed by community leaders and the Boston Police Department, that made it a crime to have a "replica gun" in public places. "Replica gun" would include the current definition of "imitation firearms" according to figure 131Q in chapter 140 section 121 of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as air guns, pellet guns, paintball guns, and airsoft replicas or other gun replica look-alikes. "We all too often encounter young people who are carrying these fake guns and even though they are fake, the public and police don't know they are," said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans in a statement obtained by USA Today News. "Our goal is to make the city the safest place it can be and this ordinance will help remind the public and residents of the dangers these replica guns present." The ordinance, passed by the city council with bipartisan support, allows authorities to confiscate replicas that are brandished in public space and, using caretaker statutes in the state, retain custody of the gun until the owner comes and picks it back up from the local precinct. As replica guns cannot be reclaimed by anyone under 18, the law is aimed primarily at minors found with replica guns misusing them in the open public, although any person can have their replica gun confiscated if encountered brandishing it in a public area such as a city street, park or recreation area. This law would make it illegal to have any replica gun look-alike brandished in public places, which keeps them out of the hands of children who might be innocently playing with them or teenagers who do not realize how others perceive the toy they are using. This fixes the issue of citizens mis-identifying the replica toys with real guns as well as police officers having to make split second impossible decisions on whether a toy is actually a toy or a real threat.
With this law, the bottom line is that if a person is brandishing a replica firearm look alike in a public space, it will be treated with caution as if it is a real firearm, since the replica firearm would be illegal to brandish or use in a public space. This concept is already currently mirrored in Chapter 140 Section 121 of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as a ''Deceptive weapon device'' is defined as "any device that is intended to convey the presence of a rifle, shotgun or firearm that is used in the commission of a violent crime, as defined in this section, and which presents an objective threat of immediate death or serious bodily harm to a person of reasonable and average sensibility." Even a simple amendment to the current definition of a "deceptive weapon device" to include: "brandishing a device intended to convey the presence of a firearm in a public space", as one example, would provide a safer environment in Massachusetts without the negative effects of the proposed Bill H3476. On this point, I would like to identify a large difference in the types of replica guns present in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Cheaper, usually plastic, replica gun toys that have no major function other than their appearance and ability to advance the imagination of the person playing with the toy through said appearance or, in some cases, a pop/audible sound, are very different than airsoft or paintball replicas, for example. The cheaper toys with no real function are marketed toward a younger audience and have no realistic use outside of imaginative play, theatrical performance or video production. An amendment to the General Law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to require these specific toys with no real function to have bright coloration, for example, as a way of identifying them from real "weapons" would be beneficial. This is because these specific toys are not only marketed toward a younger audience, but the fact that these toys have no real use causes them to have no livelihood, lifestyle or specific economic impact on Massachusetts residents and small businesses. Due to these facts, coloration of these specific replica toys would positively affect misperception of their use while not having any other negative affects on Massachusetts residents who also use the toys. However, airsoft and paintball replicas, for example, should be exempt from this coloration requirement beyond what is already in place as Federal and Massachusetts law. This is because airsoft and paintball replicas do have major functions, which are primarily to launch projectiles, and are used for competition as well as recreation. Since airsoft and paintball are natively military simulation sports, the required extra coloration of these replicas would have large negative impacts on their use as well as sale in small local Massachusetts businesses. On top of the negative effects laid out above (which would be a result of Bill H3476), coloration of these replicas would dramatically harm their import availability, since the sources for these replicas do not manufacture them with bright coloration or other causes for identification. Due to all of this, the law presented would still allow the use and sale of replica firearms or firearm look-alikes, which fall under the newly proposed "imitation firearms" definition, but only on private property including legal shops and fields or arenas, avoiding any negative effects on the airsoft sport and hobby as well as other communities within Massachusetts which would be affected by Bill H3476. Furthermore, as long as transportation of these legal replicas is allowed to be performed safely with the replica inside a closed case or bag, and not brandished publicly, this presented law would improve public safety without being at the expense of multiple communities within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Finally, this presented law would also avoid the direct failure of multiple small businesses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as promote continual job growth in this section of the local economy.
Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my response to Bill H3476, I truly appreciate it.