Pellet, air and replica guns

Pellet guns and air guns are dangerous consumer products. More than 50 young people are hospitalized each year in Canada as a result of injuries from these guns. They are a leading cause of eye loss and eye damage in children and young adults.

While firearms legislation does cover guns capable of firing a projectile over 152.4 meters (500 feet) per second, any guns which fire at or below this velocity are not covered by any current federal restrictions, thereby making them available for purchase at many retail stores. But, ballistic tests have shown a pellet fired at 182 meters (600 feet) per second is capable of killing an adult or child, or at the very least cause serious injury. This begs the question – shouldn’t pellet guns be included under the same firearms legislation as guns?

Shockingly, the Hazardous Products Act does not regulate these items, even though stuffed toys are. Pellet guns and air guns have wreaked more havoc and injury than many other products regulated under the 40-year old act. These guns are regularly used in the commission of crimes by offenders who present them as a real firearm. Police officers involved in a high-risk call cannot easily tell the difference between a real gun and a pellet or air gun. Bringing the manufacturing and sale of pellet guns and air guns under the authority of this act would provide a measure of safety and an important step in protecting Canadians.

The Canada Safety Council has approached police to push for pellet guns and air guns to be regulated under the federal Firearms Act for several years now. This would require pellet and air guns to fall under the purview of the Firearms Act. Consequently, they are readily available at many retail stores. The federal Firearms Act prohibits the ownership of some pellet guns, however, they must closely resemble real models to be illegal.

The Ottawa Police Services Board will present a resolution to the Canadian Association of Police Boards at the 2010 Annual General Meeting and request the federal government to adopt stricter regulations when it comes to the sale and purchase of pellet guns and air guns. This resolution is supported by Chief Vern White.

A related safety concern is the use of realistically looking firearms – replica or “toy” guns – used in criminal activity. The victim at the end of a barrel is in no position to judge if the gun is real or fake. SWAT teams have been mobilized to deal with people wielding toy or replica guns. Any person threatening to shoot is at risk of being shot, and there have been tragic circumstances, including an incident in the Ottawa area a few years ago. Toy guns and replica guns comprise up to 40 per cent of guns seized by police.

In the past four years, police officers across the country have shot and killed several people holding guns that later tunred out to be replicas. Among the incidents were the following:

  • Jan. 16, 2010, Edmonton: A 48-year-old woman, was fatally shot by police at an Edmonton apartment while holding an air-gun replica of a Sig Sauer handgun and failing to respond to police commands.
  • March 6, 2009, Ottawa: A 27-year-old bank robbery suspect, was shot and killed by police after pointing a replica pistol at police and threatening to shoot.
  • Oct. 13, 2006, Burnaby, B.C.: A 37-year-old man, was shot to death by police after getting out of a car holding a replica gun following a car chase.

Pellet guns and air guns, along with replica or ‘toy’ guns can all be dangerous in their own right. Lives have been lost and many have been injured as a result of these ‘guns’ getting into the wrong hands. The federal government needs to act quickly to regulate the manufacturing and sale of these products in the interest of public safety.