A brief history of Airsoft and UK Law,
In 2007 the Violent Crime Reduction Bill became law.
One section of this deals with the concern about realistic looking guns potentially being used in serious crimes and so they made it illegal to sell, manufacture or import Realistic Imitation Firearms. (RIFs) (Anything that looked like a real gun but wasn’t covered by any other Firearm legislation)
The idea being that allowing owners to keep, but not sell their RIFs, would eventually see their demise. (Without having to pay out compensation)
This is still the case.
It is illegal to SELL realistic imitation firearms (RIFs).
It is illegal to import them.
It is illegal to manufacture them.
Fortunately, Airsofters managed to come together and fight our corner and sellers gained an exemption from prosecution if the sale was for the purpose of Airsoft Skirmishing at insured airsoft skirmish sites. (Fireball’s Ken Elston was chair of the UK Airsoft site’s governing body at the time and a key player in this process)
So, buyers need to be able to prove that they are an airsoft skirmisher at these sites.
This proof is known as your defence. (Which is really the sellers defence - against prosecution)
(The same applies for importation or manufacture)
UKARA is the UK Airsoft Retailer’s Association.
Many airsoft sites will register you (& your home address), on the UKARA player database once you have met their criteria.
Minimum requirement - 3 games in MORE than two months.
This must be done at the same site, as you are asking a site owner to vouch that you are a regular player.
Some sites do this for free, some charge an admin fee, others include it in their membership fee.
At Fireball Squadron, UKARA registration is free of charge.
Once registered, retailers that belong to UKARA can check your player status (and address) online should you wish to buy a RIF.
UKARA registration lapses after 12 months. You need to play at the same site to renew your registration annually, or start fresh elsewhere.
Sites differ on their requirements for this, some requiring the three games, others less.
You can also use UKARA registration to assist in the import of RIFs from outside the UK.
HM Customs and Excise use the same database to check your status as a ‘registered’ player and that the address is linked to that membership.
UKARA is one type of defence and is widely used, but it is for retailers, not private buyers.
A few pictures of you at some previous games, or a facebook profile full of them may be just as effective for private sales.
Getting a site owner to vouch for you is also good but not very convenient if you are in a shop about to buy and call them while they are busy with their day job....
One other thing that the government did, was to define what constituted an Imitation Firearm.(IF)
These are guns that are either brightly coloured or are too small to be confused with a real gun.
An Imitation Firearm can be purchased (imported or manufactured) by anyone over the age of 18.
So, it is possible to buy (or sell) and use an Airsoft Imitation Firearm legally without any form of defence etc.
Why the government did this is open to conjecture, but a sceptic might suggest that if Airsofters can use these brightly coloured imitation firearms to play their games, they do not need to have their Realistic Imitation Firearms at all.
This is why many site owners, including Fireball Squadron, insist on covering the bright colouring if these are used in games.