Gel-Guns and Hydro Blasters Beware - The Loose Cannon

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I have recently received instructions from a toy importer who has been charged with 20 counts of possession of unauthorised prohibited firearm and possession of an unauthorised pistol.  These are all serious Table 2 charges that can attract a significant gaol term.

The ‘firearms’ concerned are toy guns called ‘Gel-guns’ or ‘Hydro-blasters’ because they fire a gel pellet that has been soaked in water.

A Gel-gun or hydro blaster is a toy firearm that slots in somewhere between a paintball gun and an airsoft gun.  Indeed, many overseas paintball fields operate games covering all three disciplines.

They are taking the country by storm and this is understandable because as toys go, they are pretty cool.

Unfortunately, many vendors are advising people that they are legal in Australia and this is not universally so.

Most Gel-guns are imitation firearms and are therefore prohibited from importation without a permit. A number I have seen look like close copies of ‘real guns’ like the  MP 5, Glock, 1911 Colt, AKS-74U, Sig Sauer 226, Desert Eagle, USP, Beretta 92, CZ Scorpion, HK 416, Steyr Aug- the list goes on, there would scarcely be a popular pistol or assault firearm that is not available as a Gel soft toy.

Gel guns are made of plastic, and contain a metal motor that projects the gel-soft pellet. Many are delivered in a clear plastic form and require assembly and painting, making detection by customs a nightmare.

They are also readily upgradable, with add on, or supplementary parts such as an exchange of motor, that one can be upgraded to provide air-soft velocities. 

Metal parts can also be imported that have the effect of giving the gel soft gun a more realistic feel.

There are three sources for Gel guns- local on-line suppliers, overseas suppliers and a small number of shops that have appeared locally – although in NSW these have been shut down.

Seizures usually get turned into a media circus by authorities, because it gives them an opportunity to photo shoot some gear that has a serious, ‘bad ass’ look about it, under circumstances where schmuck journalists do not really seem to understand the relatively benign nature of the seizure, and at least giving the impression that they are keeping Australia safe.

If you are shot by a gel pellet, it will raise a small welt, not unlike, and smaller than one you would get from a paint ball, an airsoft pellet can at short range penetrate a soda can. Hardly likely to kill someone, although it could cause an eye injury if an eye was hit.

In short, Gel guns are a really cool toy and leave Nerf guns for dead. 

This raises a particular concern given our open borders and the fact that these toys are already in the community in some number there is a risk that an irresponsible youth could easily create a school lock down, and wind up being shot by Police who are seeking to prevent a school shooting.

I understand Gel-Blasters are currently permitted in some other states, however, as one has been used in Queensland in a drive by shooting and another for a hold up, this may lead to legislative change there- despite the fact that the ‘drive by’ could just as easily have involved an attack with rocks (which would have done more damage)  and the robbery could have used a syringe or more dangerous device.

LEGALITY

A client who operates a Paint ball field recently obtained the following ruling from the NSW Firearms Registry regarding the legal status of Gel Blasters.  This interpretation is correct : 

‘Please be advised that the 'Gel Ball Shooters ’would be classified as AIR GUNS and thus FIREARMS as defined in Section 4(1) of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No. 46. 

Section 4(1) of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No. 46 states: 
“Firearm means a gun, or other weapon, that is (or at any time was) capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive, and includes a blank fire firearm, or an air gun, but does not include anything declared by the regulations not to be a firearm.” 

Section 4(1) of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No. 46 states: 
“Air Gun means a gun that:
 
(a)  can propel, or is designed to propel, a projectile:
 
i. by means of any gas or mixture of gases, including air but not including a gas or mixture of gases generated by an explosive, or 
ii.by means of a spring, and 
(b)  is operated or designed for operation by means of a trigger or other similar device”
 

Further to this these types of firearms may appear to substantially duplicate in appearance Prohibited Firearms under schedule 1, that being items 7 & 11 of the Firearms Act 1996

Schedule 1 Item 7 of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No. 46 States: 
“Item 7 - Any firearm that substantially duplicates in appearance (regardless of calibre or manner of operation) a firearm referred to in item 1, 5 or 6        
 
Item 1 – Any machine gun, sub-machinegun or other firearm capable of propelling projectiles in rapid succession during one pressure of the trigger. 
Item 5 – Any self-loading centre-fire rifle of a kind that is designed or adapted for military purposes. 
Item 6 – Any self-loading shotgun of a kind that is designed or adapted for military purposes.” 

Schedule 1 Item 11 of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No. 46 states: 
“Item 11 – A firearm, not being a pistol , fitted with a stock that is specially designed so as to be readily detachable, or to operate on a  swivel, folding or telescopic basis.”
 

Some of the Gel Ball Shooters may also be defined as Pistols as they appear to be reasonably capable of being raised and fired by one hand, and appear not to exceed the prescribed dimension of 65cm in length.  This is defined in Section 4(1) of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No 46. 

Section 4(1) of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No. 46 states: 
“Firearm means a gun, or other weapon, that is (or at any time was) capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive, and includes a blank fire firearm, or an air gun, but does not include anything declared by the regulations not to be a firearm.” 

Section 4(1) of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No. 46 states: 
“Air Gun means a gun that:
 
(a)  can propel, or is designed to propel, a projectile:
 
i.by means of any gas or mixture of gases, including air but not including a gas or mixture of gases generated by an explosive, or 
ii. by means of a spring, and 
(b)  is operated or designed for operation by means of a trigger or other similar device”
 

Section 4 (1) of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No. 46 states: 
“Pistol means a firearm that:
 
(a) Is reasonably capable of being raised and fired by one hand, and 
(b) Does not exceed any dimension prescribed by the regulations.” 

 

There are no provisions in the Regulations that are relevant to this advice.

Please also be advised that the 'gel balls' are suitable for use as airgun pellets in the firearms depicted and therefore satisfy the definition of AMMUNITION as defined in Section 4(1) of the new South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No 46. 

Section 4(1) of the New South Wales Firearms Act 1996 No 46 states:
 
“Ammunition includes:
 
(c) blank cartridges, airgun pellets, training cartridges or gas cartridges, or”
 

Sadly, I have to agree with this advice.  They ARE firearms in NSW, as incidentally would the spud gun I had as a kid.

This would also be the case in Victoria. 

I have not specifically applied my mind to the test in all states and territories.

COMMENT

Whether authorities like it or not, as a result of global trade, Gel-guns are here and here to stay.

I believe there needs to be a sensible policy debate regarding how these items are to be regulated.  Simply treating them as prohibited firearms is a legal overkill that shall cause considerable hardship, and for once, a degree of leadership is needed by regulators.

If you are thinking about getting a Gel Guns or trading in them, check with the Firearms Registry in your state or territory and also with Border Force before ordering one and get their response in writing.

You have been warned.

Simon Munslow

National Firearms Lawyer
P: (02) 6299 9690
M: 0427 280 962
E: solicitor@bigpond.com
W: firearmslawyer.com.au

Simon Munslow is a lawyer who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired his first firearm at the age of nine, and has had an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University.
Simon Munslow practices extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia.

He is a regular contributor to the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine’s website on Firearms law matters, has published articles on firearms reviews and firearms law, and occasionally is asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.

This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice. 
He can assist you with:

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