It’s been a busy few weeks, I’m sitting on a plane as I write this, traveling back from Scotland. I was in Edinburgh and tried to find an airgun shop to visit, but no luck. I think the restrictions, or risk there of, must be having a negative impact. We’re in much better shape in the States than our cousins across the pond, from what I was told they can no longer buy airguns online. That means if physical stores are closing and online shops are restricted, access will become an issue.
The question of restrictions on airguns (in the USA) comes up on the forums on a fairly frequent basis…… every time a new big bore is released, a semi or full auto action, a more powerful gun is released, you get a small group fretting and moaning that it’s the swan song for airguns. I stop to consider a few specific details when I think about this; a) what would be the basis for airguns being restricted, b) what would these restrictions look like, c) can analogies be drawn with other devices, d) how can we best protect our use of and access to airguns, and e) if we restrict ourselves (on caliber, power, action type) to fly under the radar (which I don’t think is possible) haven’t we in fact done the same thing we want to fly under the radar to avoid? Namely, removing these guns from the market.
I think that airguns could in fact, come under pressure to regulate at some point in time. But I think this would be done by anti-gun proponents and safety police regardless of power output or caliber. They have tried it with airsoft and in some jurisdictions anything more than a a Daisy Red Rider is considered a firearm or prohibited in some fashion. They have tried to regulate the color of toy guns…. so I wouldn’t doubt there will be more attempts. The fact is that the people that want to take your guns away, don’t really understand the differences between 10 or 100 fpe, a .177 and a .50 caliber, airsoft or PCP….. they just know guns are bad and they have to be controlled.
On the other-hand, It can be argued that a muzzle loader is much more powerful than any airgun, and that the rate of fire in many ariguns is less than a competent archer can get with their bows. One of the ways that you can protect the right to have access to these tools, is to offer examples of valid uses: hunting, long range shooting competition etc. This is what has been done with muzzle loaders and archery, and there is very little regulation in these areas.
If there are restrictions what would they be? An arbitrary and meaningless limit on power such as our British counter parts? That we can’t have certain calibers or certain powerplants? Again, I think the way to protect these is to show you have a valid application….. I need a big bore because I hunt deer or feral hogs, I need a 50 fpe gun because I shoot long range target competition, etc. That’s one of the reasons I think expanding the hunting laws is a positive factor for all airgunners, hunters or not. In a true chicken and egg scenario, having larger caliber and more powerful guns then helps justify expanding hunting regulations to include airguns. The potential regulation that is troubling is if airguns could not be sold online and shipped without restriction. The limiting of access would damage the sport in this country in a major way, because unlike the UK for instance, airguns are a very small niche compared to firearms and it takes a certain population to support a physical shop. We need to be prepared to lobby and stand against proposed regulation, but trying to hide or fly under the radar just does not work. The fact that firearms are regulated does not stop me from using firearms, it does however restrict where I can buy them. The fact that I can’t buy a 30-06 online is no problem, because I have 10 physical locations within a half hours drive where I can buy them.
The other thing that I’ll mention, there is no “right” to have an airgun, same as there is no “right” to hunt in a constitutional sense. Airguns, if regulated, would be done as with any other consumer product, probably a risk based decision. At some point I would hope we had an organization that would serve as a voice for airgunners in this country. But the logic that we should self regulate ourselves with respect to power or caliber to avoid being regulated escapes me, because the outcome is the same.
Anyways, enough of the rant for now. When I get home I have a few new guns awaiting me, so I’ll be getting in some serious coyote hunting over the next few weeks. I finally have the Bulldog being shipped to me and it should be available to use this weekend. Catch up with you all next week!