BB Guns, Gel Blasters and Air Rifles are popular gifts for teenagers around the Northern Rivers region, especially for those young people who live on rural properties and have toads and rats and other vermin to shoot at, along with plenty of space to do so. And, when used responsibly, they can be good fun.
BUT – here’s a warning to parents; it is an offence to possess or use BB guns, gel blasters and other air rifles without a gun license.
Many parents make the mistake of considering these types of guns toys, but that’s not how they are classified under Australia’s tough gun control laws.
Often, these guns are bought online, from inter-state or even overseas where laws are different, and many website retailers don’t issue warnings. It’s up to purchasers to understand the rules where they live.
In New South Wales the regulation, control and registration of firearms is governed by the Firearms Act 1996.
Under these laws, using or possessing a gun without a license to do so is a criminal offence. Being in possession of a pistol or a firearm that is otherwise classified as ‘prohibited’ is also a criminal offence. Machine guns and self-loading rifles are classified as prohibited.
The penalties are severe and include lengthy jail sentences.
Gel Blasters, BB Guns and Air Rifles look very similar to real guns, and they have a firing mechanism which uses compressed air to fire pellets and other projectiles, which effectively makes them a weapon.
Typically, they are considered ‘imitation firearms’ which are defined within the Act as an object that, regardless of its colour, weight or composition or the presence or absence of any moveable parts, substantially duplicates in appearance to a firearm but that is not a firearm, including a laser target shooting device used in a biathlon or modern pentathlon.
What about kids’ toys like Nerf guns and water pistols?
Most kids toys that are made for kids to play with tend to be brightly coloured and look very different from a real firearm. Cap guns that might come with a cowboy costume, for example, look the same as a gun, but they have a mechanism which only makes noise, and emits off a smoky smell. It’s important to remember that toys made for children and sold in Australia must adhere to mandatory safety standards. If you’re buying online from outside Australia, then buyer beware.
In NSW imitation firearms are not required to be registered, but do require that the owner/user has a gun licence. In recent times a number of serious crimes including home invasions, assaults and robberies have been conducted using imitation firearms like gel blasters, so it’s wise to get the right advice if you own one.
Your local Police station will let you hand in guns you don’t have a license for, at any time.
How do you get a gun license in New South Wales?
To obtain a firearms licence in NSW you must have a genuine reason for doing so. The purpose of personal protection or protection of personal property is not one of them. You will need to produce evidence for the reason you need to have a licence.
You will not be allowed to obtain a firearms licence if you have a previous criminal conviction for a serious offence including: Robbery, violent offences, firearms or weapons offences, fraud, stealing and dishonesty offences, sexual offences, terrorism-related offences, prohibited drugs offences and organised crime and criminal group-related offences.
If you have been served an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) or ADVO (Apprehended Domestic Violence Order) you cannot obtain a firearms licence for a period of ten years after it;s expiry, unless it was revoked at some point after it was served.
The ten-year rule applies to other criminal offences too. You can find out more online at the NSW Firearms Registry, which is part of Services NSW.
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.