It’s worth reiterating ‘bright colours’: real firearms are routinely produced in dull green and other dull colours for camouflage purposes. ‘Blue’ is a traditional oil finish and ‘brown’ was achieved by stabilizing rust. The bright colours that don’t count as bright for imitation firearms are gold and silver. Gold is used as a finish on some real firearms; silver isn’t, but nickel plating looks silver and has been used for over a century as a tropical finish.
So the seller commits an offence under the Act unless the buyer is the right sort of person or entity. Museums and galleries have premises with which to satisfy the vendor of their integrity. So do theatre, film and TV productions. Crown servants have ID cards. All these potential buyers will have letter-headed stationery on which to confirm their orders to the vendor’s satisfaction.
Persons holding or taking part in a permitted event establish their credentials to a vendor, according to the Act, by having appropriate public liability insurance. We don’t know for sure, but back in 2006, SRA membership with public liability insurance as a benefit of membership was already a well-known credential in battle re-enactment and living history circles and had included air soft skirmish as a named activity since the 1990s. An immediate off-the-shelf solution to the ‘problem’ the then violent crime reduction bill sought to address. And that problem was that these various classes of non-firearms were on free sale.
The 2006 legislation introduced the 2007 regulations quoted above and also brought in new age limits, created an offence of supplying imitation firearms to under-18s and paved the way to the 2011 regulations for production of realistic imitation firearms. Vendors then had to satisfy themselves as to the integrity of the buyer – in much the same way as RFDs have to be satisfied that their potential customer is neither drunk nor insane at the time of the transaction – but with the advantage that the documentary evidence to satisfy that objective is easy to determine from the legislation itself.
SRA membership is a broad church. Back in 1984 we were all about live ammunition shooting: antiques and replica collectors didn’t need us for anything, but one member asked us to extend to battle re-enactment because that was his thing during the game closed season. So we did. ‘Living history’ was added because a lot of re-enactment isn’t battles. Its people demonstrating archery, blacksmithing, spinning wool, cookery, camping, jousting etc. in period costume and using tools and weapons contemporary to the costume. Our insurers extended our cover last year so that people who do living history demonstrations for a fee are included - and that is standard now for all members.
Airsoft was added in the 1990s because the 1997 legislation that banned handguns also took CO2 weapons out of the controls, so CO2 repeaters and airsofts were what bereft pistol shooters turned to. Skirmish has its origins in battle re-enactment and by borrowing from paintball has become a recreational activity in its own right; a participant activity rather than a spectator one. So whatever you want to do that’s legal, the SRA can support you.
Richard Law, SRA Secretary since 1985