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Air Guns & Gel Blasters : The Law in NSW

This brief article discusses the legislation and laws surrounding the possession of air guns and gel blasters in NSW.  In summary, they are considered firearms and prohibited weapons due to their potential to cause harm and their resemblance to real firearms

What Is An Air Gun?

The term air gun is a general term used for a gun that uses compressed air or other gases to propel a projectile. These gases are used as an alternative to gunpowder. This can include weapons such as a paintball gun, pellet guns and gel blasters. These weapons shoot projectiles such as metal BB’s, pellets or even paintballs. 

The most known type of air gun in Australia is a paintball gun. These weapons require a permit to own in NSW and are illegal to use outside of the authorised venue. 

What Is A Gel Blaster?

A gel blaster is a type of airgun that shoots gel balls that are filled with water. These weapons are designed to be less powerful than other types of air guns, as they shoot water or gel balls. 

A gel blaster can have several different designs, and some may resemble real prohibited weapons such as automatic assault rifles.  A gel blaster is classified by NSW police as an air gun.

What Are The Laws In NSW?

In NSW, firearm regulation, control and registration are governed by the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW).  Under this Act, possessing, obtaining, and selling a prohibited firearm that is not registered with a valid permit or licence is illegal.  This legislation was introduced after the Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania in 1996. The amendments were designed to put public safety before the privilege of gun ownership. As a result of these changes, NSW has some of the strictest gun control in the world.

It is an offence to supply, acquire, possess or use a firearm that is not registered with the Firearms Registry (section 36 of the Firearms Act 1996).  Schedule 1 of the Act contains a full list of prohibited firearms, and can be found here.  It is not possible to apply for a Permit to Acquire (PTA) an air gun or gel blaster and they cannot be registered in NSW.

Why are Air Guns Illegal? 

There are several reasons why gel blasters and air guns are illegal in NSW:

  • Public safety concerns: gel blasters and air guns can cause serious injury if misused.  The gel ball used in gel blasters is classified as ammunition
  • Resemblance to real firearms: these items often closely resemble real firearms, making it difficult for police and the public to distinguish between them and actual weapons
  • Potential for misuse: due to the resemblance to actual firearms, gel blasters and air guns may be used by an individual to assist in criminal activity, or to intimidate others

What Can I Be Charged With?

Possessing a gel blaster or air gun can lead to a charge of possessing a prohibited weapon. This offence is governed by Section 7 and 7A of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW).  The type of offence depends on the design of the prohibited firearm. The offence of possessing or using unauthorised firearms or pistols carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, while the offence of possessing unauthorised firearms generally carries with it a maximum penalty of 5 years.

Recent Matters In NSW

The courts take possession and use of prohibited firearms extremely seriously, as represented by the maximum penalties involved in the offence. In NSW, a man was sentenced to 14 months in prison for possessing a gel blaster and drugs, as seen in R v Foster [2020] NSWDC 660]. In another case, R v Makouk [2022] NSWDC 170, a man receive a six year prison sentence for using a gel gun during a robbery.

How can BSM help?

If you have been charged with a firearm related offence, it is important to seek legal advice. The experienced criminal lawyers at Brander Smith McKnight can help you build a strong defence and protect your rights.  We regularly attend the Local and District Courts and pride ourselves on our high success rate when advocating for our clients.

Brander Smith McKnight Lawyers are conveniently located in Sutherland, Parramatta, Sydney CBD and Wollongong.

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