Kitchener-Waterloo·Video

Canada's new gun bill unfairly targets airsoft industry, says Waterloo retailer

The manager of an airsoft gun and equipment store in Waterloo says the sport is being unfairly targeted by Canada's new gun control legislation.

Proposed gun law will decimate airsoft businesses, says BlackBlitz Airsoft

Ziming Wan, manager of BlackBlitz Airsoft, demonstrates an airsoft rifle at the testing range in Waterloo store. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

2 years ago
Duration 0:58
Ziming Wan, manager of BlackBlitz Airsoft, demonstrates an airsoft rifle at the testing range in Waterloo store. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

The manager of an airsoft gun and equipment store in Waterloo says the sport is being unfairly targeted by Canada's new gun control legislation.

Bill C-21, is currently being debated in the House of Commons. Its goal, according to Federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair, is to "end the proliferation, importation, export or sale of those replica firearms that exactly resemble regulated firearms and discharge projectiles at a dangerous velocity," said his office in an emailed statement to CBC K-W.

The statement said when it becomes law, Bill C-21 will not impact "law-abiding owners and sport shooters." And air guns — or airsoft guns — "that do not exactly replicate an existing firearm are not prohibited."

But Ziming Wan, who manages the BlackBlitz Airsoft store in Waterloo, says the legislation didn't clearly state that when the bill was presented in its first reading and he worries it will ultimately lead to the banning of  replica paintball guns and airsoft guns used by gamers across the country.

"If the bill passes in its current state, this business will shut down. I will lose my job. The owner will lose everything. Our five employees will all lose their jobs," said Wan.

Sgt. David Caron with Guelph Police Service says the challenge for police is many officers wouldn't know if a gun was a replica or real until they handled it for themselves. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

"All this [stock]  would be prohibited from being sold, transferred or exported in Canada. So it becomes dead inventory that we can't even liquidate."

Real vs. replica

Airsoft is a popular simulated military combat game — essentially a game of tag with simulated weapons, said Wan. It's played in either small groups or weekend events that, before the pandemic, could involve up to 500 people.

The object of the game is similar to paintball and played at paintball fields. Players wear protection, including goggles or safety glasses, and instead of paintballs airsoft players shoot small plastic biodegradable pellets at each other.

Sgt. David Caron, who played paintball when he was younger says "in the right environment, with the right people it can be a safe sport."

But in his work with Guelph Police's Tactics and Rescue Unit, he knows first-hand that replica guns are a challenge for police services across North America.

"There's been a number of investigations I've been involved in where until I actually start handling the firearm to prove it safe, I don't even know at the time picking it up and putting it in my hand if it's real or if it's a replica," said Caron.

"They are so real looking, said Caron. "They have the logo of the manufacturer and serial numbers so you can't tell the difference."

He says police take every gun call seriously — whether it's shots fired or a citizen spotting someone in their neighbourhood walking down the street holding a gun that may be fake.

The airsoft game uses small biodegradable pellets. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Petition for change

Wan believes including airsoft guns under the replica ban essentially criminalizes the sport, and he wants to see the industry pushing for full legalization.

"There was no consultation with the industry before [the government] did this," said Wan. "Airsoft toys are not a threat to public safety. They are made so you can play with your friends and not hurt your friends. All airsoft stores in Canada are small businesses and they can't take blows like this."

Airsoft groups across the country have started e-petitions asking the government to remove airsoft guns from Bill C-21.

More than 50,000 people have signed through a Change.org petition and one hosted on the House of Commons website.

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