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Australia’s “Common Sense” Gun Control Snares Nerf Blasters?

Monday, May 24, 2021

Australia’s “Common Sense” Gun Control Snares Nerf Blasters?

We all know that among modern firearm prohibitionists, the term “gun control” is out. As a writer for the New York Times recently explained, the word “control” has a “ring of repression” to it. True, he admitted, “It’s accurate: The legislation in question entails more government control over who can purchase guns and when and how.” But for those actively seeking to impose such “control” over their fellow citizens, the language is “off key” and “unhelpful.”

In other words, when you actually are trying to oppress people, you certainly don’t want to talk about it openly. The repression itself is fine, even necessary, of course. But it’s gauche to be too blatant about it.

What’s in is the term “common sense.” Thus, when candidate Joe Biden set forth the most sweeping, prohibitory gun control agenda America had ever seen from a presidential contender, he made sure to characterize the proposals merely as “common-sense gun safety policies.”

And so it is in Australia. There, firearm ownership requires a permit, which in turn requires the applicant to specify a “genuine reason.” The law further specifies that “personal protection is not a genuine reason for owning, possessing or using a firearm.” This, according to the politician most responsible for the 1996 scheme that imposed these requirements, was “an exercise in common sense."

It was also, as gun controllers like to say, only the “first step.” Later expansions would eventually encompass non-firearms like paintball guns. When this led skirmish sport enthusiasts to adopt the even milder alternative of “gel blasters,” the state of South Australia passed a 2020 law to ensure they, too, came under the law’s authority. Current owners were given six months to surrender their gel blasters or obtain a “firearms” license for them. Use was also limited to “licenced [sic] venues.” This was, according to a South Australian police official, “common sense.”

The South Australian police (SAPOL) reported that 3,882 “gel blaster firearms” were surrendered during the amnesty period. Residents who already owned gel blasters applied for a total of 460 new “firearms” licenses for them, as well as 136 variations to existing licenses. SAPOL, however, admitted that their own estimates put the number of gel blasters circulating in the state at 62,000, while retailers estimated the true figure to be 350,000.  

Now, it seems, even Nerf guns may be implicated by South Australia’s bizarre and repressive “exercise in common sense.”

Nerf guns are popular toys that expel harmless foam darts or disks. With their cartoonish designs, prominent logos, bright colors, and sometimes translucent parts, they are easily and instantly distinguishable from real firearms.

But some Australian skirmish enthusiasts discovered that certain models of Nerf guns can fire gel pellets without modification. Local news reports note that this has led to concerns these Nerf guns are also regulated under the state’s firearms laws, requiring owners to have them licensed and registered with local authorities.  

Nerf Mega Bigshock owner Brad Phillips told 7 News Australia, “I asked SAPOL (SA Police) whether I’d have to register it and they said yes I would.” Phillips noted he then dutifully took his Nerf gun to the Gawler police station, which completed the necessary formalities to render it legal, which included etching a serial number into the plastic. The $35 fee they charged appears to be about twice the retail price of the toy in Australia.

South Australian police are now backpedaling on the interpretation of the law given to Phillips. A statement SAPOL provided to The Guardian insisted, “Nerf Blasters are toys and there is no requirement to register any model of nerf blaster.”

Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to see how any of this actually makes anybody safer, while it’s easy to see how it creates confusion, uncertainty, and a chilling effect for anybody who desires to exercise what shrinking sphere of “gun-related” conduct remains legal.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the Biden administration took a long step in a similar direction by publishing a proposed rule that would unilaterally redefine what is considered a regulated “firearm” or “firearm frame or receiver” under federal law. We will have more information about this effort in other alerts, but suffice to say here that it would also create more perplexity and legal jeopardy among law-abiding citizens than clarity or crime reduction.

Of course, the man for whom Joe Biden served as vice president repeatedly invoked Australian gun control as a model the U.S. should emulate. Now, as president, Biden seems determined to turn that rhetoric into reality.

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