The Trudeau government is killing airsoft with Bill C21 for no apparent reason

Most Canadians under 25 years old have played paintball at a birthday party or at a corporate team-building event at least once in their life. It is simply a fun day in the woods. Airsoft is a similar game with more realistic looking “markers that has overtaken paintball as a recreational activity and sport. A big part of the reason is due to the high cost of buying paint balls. Airsoft markers do not shoot actual bullets and they can not be modified to do so. 

Brian McIlmoyle, an insolvency trustee by day, and an airsoft field owner and event organizer, described the game as, “you're really only playing a game of tag”. He went on do describe the military-style uniforms that airsoft players wear as part of the game, “just dressed-up tag, and that is what airsoft is”.

In Ottawa, the long-running Commando Paintball field hosts airsoft games. Aside from being more economical, the airsoft markers provide a little more realism and are easier to fix than the average paintball gun. At around $20 for 4000 BBs, airsoft projectiles are extremely affordable and the small plastic pellets, the size of a pea, do not hurt when hit. None of the differences between the two games will matter if Bill C21 passes. The bill seeks to reclassify airsoft markers as “replica weapons prohibited under the federal firearms laws. It's akin to saying that  hockey sticks are a weapon in the legal definition. Bill C21 as drafted will also heavily impact the paintball world as this equipment would be considered prohibited, replica firearms and will be banned too. If the bill passes, with the stroke of a pen, the entire industry will collapse. That this provision could even make it into Bill C21 speaks volumes about the ideologically driven and obtuse nature of Liberal MPs and their understanding of gun crime in Canada.

Instead of proposing legislation with real solutions to combat the people responsible for gun crimes in Canada — the gang bangers and violent youth criminals in Canada's major cities who bring in illegal firearms from the United States — Trudeau and his party have chosen to not deal with the surge in 'violent youth gun crime' and deflect to a non issue. Rather than proposing provisions to change the law to ensure that criminals caught with guns committing crimes go to jail, or are at least held without bail until their court date, the government has decided to target innocent people who play a sport called airsoft that has nothing to do with gun crime in this country. It's akin to a doctor telling a patient with a heart condition that in order to fix  the heart he needs to put his leg in a cast. One has nothing to do with the other, except they are both medical procedures.   

There are five public fields for playing airsoft and several more for paintball in the Ottawa area alone, plus at least five retailers that sell equipment for either sport. Many other stores like army surplus stores and hiking equipment shops that sell a large proportion of their equipment to airsoft players will most certainly feel the impact financially if airsoft gets the boot. 

Just why Justin Trudeau has decided that in the wake of the the worst recession in Canada since the great depression that now is the time to attack Canadian business owners who provide services for a very popular sport is beyond reason. What is really going on is that the ideologically driven Trudeau Liberals are trying to equate paintball and airsoft with American gun culture and right-wing militia nuts and people who want to harm other people. This is irresponsible on multiple levels and is not supported by one iota of evidence. The effort serves to reinforce their bias and highlights how little knowledge or understanding they have of the sport. Worse, these same cultural elitists and purveyors of 'better speech' seem to have no issue in falsely associating an entire industry and very legitimate sport with gun crime. The crass dishonesty of the proposed legislation is very troubling.

Airsoft is as much of a sport as hockey, soccer, boxing, golf and horseback riding. It requires training, physical stamina, talent and preparation.The sport is broad based and multicultural: there are Afro-Caribbean players, Indigenous teams of Mandarin speakers, even teams that include card-carrying members of the NDP.

To many, getting out of the house and going to the local field is when they see friends and catch up with each other while mutually enjoying a hobby. When asked what his favourite thing about the sport is, Michael Bright, a member of the group Airsoft In Canada, said it is “the comradeship, and the players becoming a community”. The video below will introduce people to the average Canadian airsoft player. 

The rigorous safety measures in place at fields ensure that there are not unforeseen injuries. Players wear helmets, eye and face protection, and only transport their markers to games in safe gun or pelican cases. If the rules are not followed, players risk being banned from a field. Once a player removed his safety goggles only to be ushered out by a referee and told not to come back. Beyond the odd scrape or cut, observers will not see injuries during a game. The same can not be said for hockey and MMA. 

Every year on Halloween, Airsoft Canada, the largest forum for Canada's community, has countless posts about not taking equipment out trick or treating or to parties. The common belief is one bad apple can spoil it for everyone. 

Banning airsoft and paintball in Canada will do nothing to reduce firearms crime simply because airsoft guns and paintball guns are not guns. They are sports equipment and cannot kill people, and must be purchased by responsible adults 18 years of age or older. If the Trudeau Liberals are worried about gun crime, why are they going after harmless sport hobbyists and not the criminals who use illegal weapons to commit crimes? It is ironic that Prime Minister Trudeau himself is personally involved in boxing, a sport that many consider violent and one that has resulted in the deaths and injuries of hundreds of participants over several decades. Yet, Trudeau targets a sport with no issues.

The crass irony of the Liberal's Bill C22 is that it actually reduces mandatory minimums and punishments for those that commit crimes with unregistered illegally obtained firearms. How is this logical? How is this a bill about public safety if it reduces punishment for crimes committed by people with actual guns? Brian McIlmoyle stated “What's been exposed by bill C22 is the intent (which was not at all to affect public safety but in fact) to impact law abiding citizens and seize their property and deprive them of their rights”.

Is Bill C21 really about controlling gun violence or is about controlling the Canadian population ideologically because the government is opposed to the militaristic aesthetic of airsoft? Why must airsofters pay the price for the crimes of those with intent to hurt others, like violent gang bangers, and why are their punishments being reduced? How will banning plastic BB-shooting devices lower gun crime in Canada. As Michael Bright stated: “Airsoft is an easy target for politicians to go after because to people who don’t play it can understandably look scary, like a bunch of militia members preparing for war, but for those that are members of the community we know that is extremely far from the truth and not what's going on at all. So as a result, the Liberals have seen that increasing firearms restrictions (including airsoft markers) is popular with their base and we are (the airsoft community) an easy target, and so they’ve targeted us because it will buy them votes, and that means were trading our rights as Canadians who are doing nothing wrong for votes"

The government should not be in the business of banning sports. Every Western country except Australia has allowed airsoft as a sport, even New Zealand and the UK, which have some of the worlds' strictest gun laws and lowest gun crime rates. No problem will be solved by banning airsoft, rather, it will disenfranchise and anger a large community of law-abiding citizens. Bill C21, as it stands, is not about gun control but property rights. McIlmoyle iterated this point: “In the context of airsoft guns being used in crimes, the laws that exist on the book are quite sufficient with dealing with that possibility. The fact of the matter is if you use something that looks like a firearm in the commission of a crime it is exactly the same as if you used a real firearm, so in that regard the law is quite robust”.

When both airsoft advocates interviewed were asked if they had anything to say to elected officials who may read this piece Michael Bright stated, “I tend to lean to the left in my personal politics.  I’m very much in favour of firearm rights but a lot of my views are very liberal . . . and the Liberals have lost my vote in the next election because of their conduct here.” Brian McIlmoyle stated: “If the goal is to achieve public safety through legislation then any legislation has to focus on the cause of the risk. And, the cause and risk with respect to to firearms (including airsoft markers) is not that they exist, its that they exist in the hands of criminals. And so, any legislation needs to be focused on curtailing the acts of criminals. The most useful methods to curtail criminal activities is to make sure they don’t become so in the first place and in that regard the policies of the government need to be focused on the social programs that are most effective in redirecting essentially young men mostly away from lives of crime.”

The header photo of Justin Trudeau posing with paintball players surfaced last week on Facebook. He is smiling, happy for a photo op and a vote. Has he no shame? The people who voted for him will lose something they value and enjoy for cheap political points.