Anyone convicted of a felony will face certain societal restrictions, such as potentially losing the right to vote or own a firearm. But what about owning an airsoft gun, which often closely resembles a real firearm?
Can felons own airsoft guns? The answer varies, but I’m here to help. Here’s a closer look at how to safely and legally use an airsoft gun, even if you have a felony conviction.
Legal Requirements for Owning an Airsoft Gun – Federal
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single, consistent answer as to whether or not a felon can own an airsoft gun. Instead, the individual will need to consider a few different factors.
Federal law prohibits any individual convicted of a felony from owning a firearm and prohibits anyone awaiting trial for a felony charge from receiving a firearm.
However, federal law does not classify airsoft guns as firearms, which means restrictions for felons don’t apply. At the federal level, felons are legally allowed to buy and own airsoft guns.
Legal Issues Surrounding Airsoft Guns – State
Keep in mind federal regulations aren’t the only relevant rules you’ll need to follow. State and local laws might also apply. After conducting thorough research, here are notable laws I’ve found across the country:
Airsoft guns must have an orange tip.
California has specific laws about how airsoft guns must be marked. All airsoft guns require bright orange tape or paint on the barrel. It must be at least two centimeters wide.
Additional markings are required based on the type of airsoft:
- Pistol – Markings are required on the trigger guard and grip.
- Rifle – Markings must be on any two of the following: stock, grip, or magazine.
- Sniper – Markings must be on the trigger guard, stock, and grip.
Minors (under 18) are prohibited from buying, receiving, or loading airsoft guns. However, they can use them with adult supervision.
Airsoft guns are prohibited from being sold, rented, or otherwise transferred to anyone 13 or younger without the permission of a parent or guardian.
In Illinois, airsoft guns are classified as “air rifles,” which is different from toys or firearms.
New York City
The Big Apple requires that all imitation firearms, including airsoft guns and toys, be made with transparent or fluorescent polymers.
Additionally, a license is required to purchase any type of spring or gas-powered pistol or rifle.
All airsoft guns must have an orange tip.
Minnesota has relatively strict requirements for airsoft guns.
- Individuals must be 16 years or older to purchase any airsoft gun.
- Individuals 14 and younger can use an airsoft gun, but only under adult supervision.
- When transporting an airsoft gun, it must be unloaded and stored in a closed case.
The city of Minneapolis prohibits the open carry of airsoft guns unless they have an orange tip.
New Jersey has some of the country’s strictest laws regarding airsoft guns. They’re not classified as toys. Instead, they’re considered “imitation firearms.”
Airsoft guns also have location restrictions that apply to all users. Within New Jersey, you can only use an airsoft gun indoors on private property or outdoors in a designated airsoft field (such as a commercial facility).
Airsoft guns can only be fired on private property or outside city limits.
Carrying an airsoft gun, even one with an orange tip, is prohibited within 1000 feet of any school.
How to Determine State Law
If you have a felony conviction and want to own an airsoft gun, never guess about your state’s laws. Research the specifics yourself so you can ensure you remain in compliance.
The easiest way is to go on your state’s official website and search “firearms.” If you can’t find information pertaining to felons specifically, look for whether or not your state classifies airsoft guns as firearms or toys.
Another option is to call your local sheriff’s department. Law enforcement will appreciate that you want to follow the law.
Age-Related Restrictions for Airsoft Guns
All states require buyers of airsoft guns to be at least 18 years old. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be 18 to use an airsoft gun.
Many states permit parents or guardians to purchase an airsoft gun for a minor. While specifics vary, many states only allow children between 14 and 18 to use an airsoft gun with adult supervision.
Airsoft ranges and other commercial airsoft facilities will also have restrictions. As a general rule, most commercial facilities require all participants to be 12 years or older and typically require the presence of a parent or guardian.
Potential Dangers of an Airsoft Gun
All states have laws about using airsoft guns in a threatening way. You can’t point an airsoft gun at someone outside of an organized game or use it to commit a crime.
Of course, it’s safe to assume you’re not going to walk into a bank and point your airsoft gun at the teller! But there are still situations where a law-abiding airsoft owner with good intentions can accidentally cause a big problem.
The most common issues involve transportation. Keep your airsoft guns out of public view as much as possible. Only carry them in a closed gun case. Also, never carry an airsoft gun in a holster, even a concealed one, when in public. They’re generally considered ineffective for self-defense purposes.
Never brandish or fire an airsoft gun in public. Unfortunately, if a police officer sees someone with an airsoft gun, they have no choice but to assume the gun is real until proven otherwise – and that can lead to the use of lethal force.
Finally, never remove the orange markings from an airsoft gun. State laws differ, and removing the markings might not necessarily be illegal. However, removing the markings dramatically increases your personal risk when carrying an airsoft gun in public.
Probation and Parole
Someone convicted of a felony might be subject to either parole or probation, both of which are alternatives to incarceration.
- Probation is a type of sentencing where the offender is allowed to reside in their community instead of prison.
- Parole is when the offender is released early from prison due to good behavior.
The person convicted of the crime is subject to close monitoring in both situations. Someone on probation reports to a probation officer, an agent of the court system. A person on parole reports to a parole officer, who works for the state’s department of corrections.
Whether you’re on parole or probation, always check with the officer about whether or not you’re allowed to own or use an airsoft gun. Restrictions are often highly specific to the individual and nature of the offense.
Can felons own airsoft guns? The answer often depends on the state and city you live in. If you have a felony conviction, check local laws before buying or carrying any type of airsoft gun. Additionally, even if the airsoft gun is legally allowed, always follow all safety guidelines when transporting and using it.