If you’re from California and are looking to get into airsoft, one of the first questions you may have is are airsoft guns legal in California. Airsoft laws are a tricky subject since they differ from state to state, and are also subject to change. But, no need to worry. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know when it comes to California airsoft laws.
Let’s dive in.
What Are Airsoft Guns?
But before looking into their legality, you need to know exactly what airsoft guns are. Basically, they’re toy guns designed in a way to closely resemble real guns in look and feel. Unlike real weapons, airsoft guns shoot tiny, plastic BBs that are mostly harmless, as long as the safety precautions are taken.
Due to their realism, they’re used in airsoft, which is a combat simulation game. It’s similar in concept to paintball, but the guns look much more realistically. Even though they look more realistic than paintball guns, they may be even safer and may hurt less, given that the BBs are much smaller and made of plastic.
Are Airsoft Guns Legal in the US?
When it comes to airsoft gun laws in a certain state, they’re regulated by both federal and state laws. Therefore, before looking into airsoft gun laws in California, you need to be familiar with federal airsoft laws in the US. We go over them in this section. If you want to learn more, you can check out this comprehensive guide on are airsoft guns illegal.
If you are already familiar with federal laws and want to know about California specifically, you can skip this section.
Under federal law, airsoft and airsoft guns are legal in the US. However, certain states have their own laws which set additional conditions that airsoft players must respect.
Even though they’re legal to own and use for anyone, only people 18 years and older can buy an airsoft gun. This is true both for physical stores, as well as online. Also, airsoft guns must be sold with an orange tip installed on them, in order to differentiate them from real guns.
Airsoft guns are considered toys in US federal law, and not real guns. Therefore, they are not subject to regular gun laws. There are, however, some states where that’s not the case. And even in states where they’re considered toys, attempting to use airsoft guns for something like a robbery will probably see you charged with armed robbery, just as you would if you were to try to rob a store with real guns.
While they’re legal to own, in most states you shouldn’t use them outside of airsoft fields. Just carrying an airsoft gun in public can easily put you in trouble with the law. Worst of all, a police officer or a civilian may panic and pull out a real gun in order to defend themselves from you. Indeed, there are multiple cases of such incidents happening.
In most of the US, there are no age requirements to play airsoft. You can own and use as many airsoft guns as you want, regardless of your age. The only restriction is on the buying of airsoft guns, which is only allowed for people 18 years and older. So, if you’re under 18, you’ll need someone that’s willing to buy the airsoft gun for you.
You don’t even need a permit to buy an airsoft gun in the US. As long as you’re 18 years or older, you can simply walk into an airsoft store and get yourself an airsoft gun, just as you would buy any other everyday product.
In the US, all airsoft guns that are transported or being sold in stores need to have an orange tip on them, in order to distinguish them from real guns. However, once you buy an airsoft gun, in most states it’s up to you whether you want to keep the orange tip or you want to remove it. Still, while the orange tip may not look realistic, it will help other people know that it’s a toy gun and not the real thing.
To avoid trouble with the law, you should always refrain from showing off your airsoft guns in public. This is the main reason for most incidents with airsoft guns. Only use airsoft guns at airsoft fields. When transporting them to and from the airsoft field, have them safely packed in a gun case or a bag.
Are Airsoft Guns Legal in California?
Airsoft guns are legal in California, both for adults and for children (with parental permission). This is similar to most of the rest of the US. However, California has some relatively new laws regarding the look of the airsoft gun. This is specific to California and isn’t found in most other states.
California Airsoft Laws
California airsoft laws go a step further when it comes to making airsoft guns distinguishable from real guns. In 2016, new legislation was enacted that requires all airsoft guns to have certain markings. Specifically, according to the Senate Bill No.199, all airsoft guns (handguns, rifles, long guns etc) need to have a blaze orange ring on the barrel and fluorescent coloration over the trigger guard.
In addition, airsoft handguns should have “ a two centimeter wide adhesive band around the circumference of the protruding pistol grip that has fluorescent coloration”.
On the other hand, if the airsoft gun is a rifle or a long gun, there should be a “two centimeter wide adhesive band with fluorescent coloring around the circumference of any two of the following:
- The protruding pistol grip.
- The buttstock.
- A protruding ammunition magazine or clip.”
The laws apply to any airsoft gun, BB gun, or any toy gun that resembles real guns in look. This was enacted to make airsoft guns more distinguishable from real guns.
Having tapes on airsoft guns may annoy many airsoft players since it makes airsoft guns look not as realistic as they would want. However, it definitely helps to recognize airsoft guns as toys and not real weapons. Having all airsoft guns visibly marked helps to avoid panic and situations when police officers or civilians pull out a real gun to defend themselves from people with airsoft guns. Unfortunately, there are cases like that which ended up tragically.
Since realism is an important aspect of airsoft, many California airsofters remove the tapes. While this is illegal, in reality, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get caught or fined due to removing the tapes. This is especially true if you use the airsoft gun at airsoft fields only, have it in a case or a bag when transporting it, and never boasting it in public.
Still, if you decide to remove the tapes, you’re doing it on your own responsibility. If you get caught, you’ll be fined $100 for the first offense, $300 for the second offense, and you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor the third and subsequent times.
The last thing to keep in mind is that individual counties may have their own regulations. Therefore, even after knowing all of this, you should still look up the regulations for your county. You can check with the airsoft community in your county, in airsoft stores, or at airsoft fields located in your county.
In this article, we discussed the legality of airsoft in California. We looked into federal laws that regulate airsoft in California as well as the rest of the US, but we also looked at airsoft laws in California specifically. As you saw, California has specific airsoft laws which are generally more restrictive than most of the US. Still, there’s a good reason for this, since it increases safety.
Is It Illegal To Remove the Orange Tip From an Airsoft Gun in California?
Removing the orange tip from an airsoft gun is illegal in California. In fact, airsoft guns in California must have fluorescent colorations on multiple places, and not just the tip. If you’re caught with an airsoft gun without an orange tip or fluorescent coloration you may be fined, and if it happens multiple times, you may even be charged with a misdemeanor.
Why Can’t Airsoft Guns Be Shipped to California?
Airsoft guns can be shipped to California, provided that they’re in compliance with California airsoft laws. This includes the fluorescent coloration required by Senate Bill no.199. Most airsoft sellers will already have California-compliant airsoft guns, so you don’t need to worry about that.
Are Toy Guns Illegal in California?
Toy guns, such as airsoft or BB guns, aren’t illegal in California. However, boasting them in public can be. Also, they need to have fluorescent coloration in order to be distinguishable from real weapons.