Are BB Guns Illegal
Is it Against the Law to Own a BB Gun? Decoding the Legalities
If you’re like me, living in the United States, the idea of legality and BB guns possibly hadn’t crossed your mind until now. I was taken aback when I discovered that the phrases “legal issues” and “BB guns” could be used in the same context. The thought that laws might govern the purchase of a BB gun had never occurred to me.
Our friends over in the UK are well-acquainted with the fact that gun laws cover even air guns. However, here in the U.S., I doubt many of us have pondered, “Can just anyone buy a BB gun?” or “Are there specific laws for BB guns?” For most of us, BB guns have always been easily accessible. They’re usually there on the shelf, ready for you to pick up and take home without any issues or questions asked.
Surprisingly, there are indeed laws related to BB guns. These laws dictate who can buy, own, and use BB or other air guns—although probably not in the way you might imagine.
The Federal Law
We all know about the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, and the Hughes Amendment of 1986. These are federal legislations that apply across the United States. The NFA defines the rules for suppressors, short barreled rifles, sawed-off shotguns, and the like. The GCA required serial numbers on all new firearms, banned mail-order firearm sales, and prohibited interstate handgun sales. The Hughes Amendment declared it unlawful for civilians to own any machine guns made after May 19, 1986.
In these legislations, you’ll find no mention of BB guns or any other air guns. That’s because there are no federal laws regulating the transfer, possession, or use of BB guns. They are, however, overseen by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This means they fall under general statutory limitations involving “substantial product hazards” and articles that pose “a substantial risk of injury to children.” While the CPSC hasn’t adopted specific regulations, the BB gun industry has established voluntary standards.
Federal law doesn’t allow states to prohibit the sale of traditional BB, pellet, or other air guns. But, it does permit individual states to ban the sale of BB guns to minors. Courts have deemed this legal as long as the regulations stop short of an outright prohibition on their sale. Federal law doesn’t set a minimum age for BB gun sales. That decision is left to the states.
There are plenty of laws determining who can buy a BB gun. A total of 23 states and the District of Columbia have imposed regulations on the purchase, transfer, and use of BB guns. However, the level of restriction varies significantly among these locations.
New Jersey and Rhode Island regard BB guns as firearms in the federal sense of the term. This implies that felons, other federally prohibited individuals, and unsupervised minors cannot possess any kind of BB gun.
Illinois and Michigan have BB gun restrictions that relate to calibers and velocity. Illinois exempts anything under .18 caliber and traveling slower than 700 feet per second. Michigan exempts BB guns that are smoothbore, specifically designed to be air-powered, and do not exceed .177 in caliber.
Connecticut, Delaware, and North Dakota classify BB guns as “dangerous weapons,” but there are often exemptions for BB guns within this classification.
When it comes to minors, 12 states and the District of Columbia have age restrictions concerning BB guns. Furthermore, 13 states have rules about BB guns on school premises.
Some localities have even more stringent laws
than state laws regarding BB guns. For instance, in New York City, you must have a license to buy or sell an air gun.
Even in states where air gun laws are lax or non-existent, there are often local laws or ordinances that govern what you can and cannot do with BB guns within city limits or other populated areas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is a BB gun considered a firearm? From the federal government’s perspective, it isn’t. However, some local jurisdictions may see it differently, so it’s best to check with your local authorities.
Q: Do air rifles need to be stored in a locked place? Legally, the answer is usually no. However, it’s always wise to store anything that shoots – including air guns – safely.
Q: Do you need an ID to buy an air rifle? You likely won’t need to undergo a background check to buy a BB gun. However, many states do have age restrictions, so you’ll likely need to present an ID.
So, Can Just Anyone Buy a BB Gun?
At this point, you now realize that BB gun laws exist and are likely more complex than you thought. While there are no federal obstacles with BB guns, there definitely are state and local rulings that influence who can and cannot buy a BB gun and where you can and cannot use one.
Since this kind of legislation doesn’t make the headlines like regular gun regulations, I highly recommend that you frequently check your state and local laws and ordinances regarding BB guns. Don’t rely on catching changes in the newspaper or on TV. Moreover, don’t rely on this article as the ultimate authority on air gun laws.
Most importantly, don’t let any of this deter you from enjoying BB guns and other air guns. Like regular firearms, they can be a lot of fun. You shouldn’t miss out on any of it just because you’re not well-informed about the rules and regulations surrounding them.