A bill that could affect the huge airsoft and milsim community on the West Coast is just a signature away from law. The bill, according to airsoft advocacy groups, is an unfair and ignorant approach to safety that will force Golden State hobbyists to mark their pellet-firing devices in bright colors while actual firearms can be any flavor. This is portrayed as a move to help save lives, however, some would disagree.
(A common meme floating around Airsoft social media)
The legislation itself
The measure, SB199, was introduced to the California Senate by Senators De Len, Evans, and Wolk. If you aren't sure who Kevin De Leon is, he is the infamous lawmaker who session after session introduces gun control measures to the state legislature in Sacramento. Still not sure, check out this video of De Leon championing his so-called "Ghost Gun" bill earlier this year.
De Leon in action. If he knows this much about firearms in general, do you expect him to be an expert in milsim/airsoft?
The anti-airsoft, anti-BB bill (oddly with almost no mention of paintball guns) drifted through the legislature for almost eighteen months before gaining enough traction to pass. It originally mandated that airsoft devices sold or made in California be either transparent (clear) or brightly colored to resemble toys or super-soaker style water guns.
Senate Bill 199 languished for a long time over the issue of pellet guns (.177, .22 etc.), until lawmakers removed all guns that fire a projectile smaller than 6mm or 8mm (which eliminated most air rifles and pistols, but still included airsoft) from the requirement.
In that form, targeting just airsoft devices, it passed the state Assembly by 46-34 on Aug. 26 and the state Senate by a 23-12 margin just two days later. Now, it sits on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk waiting to be signed into law.
Many believe the bill is unfair, as it would require milsim-style guns, which fire generally non-lethal plastic BBs, to be marked in certain colors and styles, while actual firearms can be in any color or style subject to the gun maker's imagination.
SAR Arms Pistols. These are not airsoft guns, they are actual 9mm semi-auto pistols
Although there are several pellet guns that look similar to real firearms, as well as paintball guns that are similar, it is only airsoft that is being targeted in this legislation. The bill has changed from its original format to just require a 2 centimeter colored adhesive stripe on 2 out of 3 of the following locations: stock, mag well, hand guard, or pistol grip, but is still unpopular.
De Leon argues that this will save lives.
"In a stressful situation where it's a question of using deadly force, police officers are not going to be able to get close enough for a detailed inspection," said Senator De Leόn in a release. "These toy guns need some sort of marking that will make them harder to mistake for real firearms."
But, can you really tell a real gun from a fake gun just by the way its marked?
Which one of these is a 'real' gun? The answer may surprise you.
What can you do?
The legislation has been a very popular point of discussion here on the forums with more than 37,000 views on the primary thread since it was started in January.
On the bright side, there are a number of groups opposing the measure on behalf of the airsoft/milsim community. The California State Rifle and Pistol Association, the state's NRA affiliate, publicly opposes SB199 as does the NRA proper.
The NRA contends that federal law already mandates the marking of airsoft guns and that the De Leon bill would overstep state laws by requiring even more regulation than Washington requires.
While this sets up a legal challenge for if the bill is signed into law, it is up to concerned airsofters to take action to prevent that from happening.
(Devtac Airsoft has been passing this around on their Facebook page and correspondence for months)
Many airsoft groups and personalities, such as Devtac and Jet DesertFox have been very active in Vote No on SB199 advocacy in recent month
A Facebook page has been set up with information on how to oppose the measure including contact information for the Governor's office.
What's your opinion on the bill? Let us know in the comments below.