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Airguns and the law

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JPigg55

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#1
I've been trying to find an answer to this for some time.
From my research, the ATF doesn't consider an airgun as a firearm and, thus, it's reasonable to assume that a FFL is not required to make/work on/sell airguns from the Federal point of view.
That said, I know what tends to happen when one "ASSUMES".

While the ATF might not consider an airgun as a firearm, the illustrious State of Illinois does. Here's what the FOID (Firearm Owners ID) law states:

What is the definition of a firearm according to the FOID Act?
"Firearm" means any device, by whatever name known, which is designed to expel a projectile or projectiles by the action of an explosion, expansion of gas or escape of gas; excluding however:
(1) any pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun or B-B gun which either expels a single globular projectile not exceeding .18 inch in diameter AND which has a maximum muzzle velocity of LESS than 700 feet per second or breakable paint balls containing washable marking colors;
(2) any device used exclusively for signaling or safety and required or recommended by the United States Coast Guard or the Interstate Commerce Commission;
(3) any device used exclusively for the firing of stud cartridges, explosive rivets or similar industrial ammunition; and
(4) an antique firearm (other than a machine-gun) which, although designed as a weapon, the Department of State Police finds by reason of the date of its manufacture, value, design, and other characteristics is primarily a collector's item and is not likely to be used as a weapon.

It's crazy to me to have a law that vaguely describes what a Fiream isn't, but here's my quandary.
Illinois considers some airguns as firearms.
Businesses dealing in firearms are required to have a FFL, but the Fed doesn't require a FFL for airguns.
I know I could legally make and airgun, that Illinois would consider as a firearm, for my own use, but what about for the business of air smithing or sales of airguns that meet the Illinois definition as a firearm ???

Anyone have any insight or reference(s) that would answer my question ???
 

Bob La Londe

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#2
Are there any airgun shops in Il. that just sell airguns? Most common ones I can think of like Wal-Mart have FFLs.
 

Superburban

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#3
That gets intriguing. I assume that since it is Illinois laws that add the air guns to the definition of a firearm, you have to only look further in IL laws to see what else is necessary, since federal forms, and records do not apply.

Looks like in 2012, they changed a few words to make it stricter.

(1) any pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun, or
B-B gun which either expels a single globular projectile
not exceeding .18 inch in diameter or and which has a
maximum muzzle velocity of less than 700 feet per second or
breakable paint balls containing washable marking colors;
(1.1) any pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun, or
B-B gun which expels breakable paint balls containing
washable marking colors;

I guess if you made it, marketed it, and sold it as a paint gun, even though it can also shoot pellets, and paint balls are not yet made in that caliber, you might be ok.

I find #4 interesting. In theory, the state police can change the definition at will.

I will never understand how we can have such vague laws one time, and then another time, a court throws out a law because it is too vague.
 

DHarris

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#4
The way I read your highlighted section above - - if you keep the muzzle velocity under 700 fps they don't think of it as a regulated weapon. Above 700fps it looks like it falls under their laws. What type of air guns are you looking to work on / sell? Target only, plinking only, or small critter hunting?
 

Billh50

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#5
Here in New Britain, CT it is illegal to even possess a BB or Pellet gun. even those cheap light spring ones are illegal.
 

kd4gij

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#6
The OP says excluding what is below. How ever when in doubt Call your local Authority's for verification.
 

higgite

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#7
I'm not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV, but it seems to me that if the Feds don't consider an airgun to be a firearm, you wouldn't need a FEDERAL Firearm License. BUT, if the STATE considers SOME airguns to be firearms, you need to comply with the STATE laws concerning selling, smithing, manufacturing, etc., of airguns that do not qualify for exemption from the laws. But, I could well be wrong, so don't call me as an expert witness for your trial. ;)

Tom
 

JPigg55

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#8
Yes, Illinois considers any airgun 18 caliber or larger a firearm and even if less than 18 caliber, if velocity exceeds 700 fps, it is as well when concerning airguns that fire BB's or pellets.
It gets even more confusing since I can go to Walmart and buy a .177 or .22 pump air rifle that advertises 1,000+ fps and I can buy one without a FOID card.
I've looked at the Illinois law on www.illinois.gov and it's not any clearer on the subject. State Police can't give an answer nor any other entities I've contacted, not that I'd trust anything I was told that wasn't backed up by something on paper.

Are there any airgun shops in Il. that just sell airguns? Most common ones I can think of like Wal-Mart have FFLs.
None that I'm aware of in my area. There may be some in the state, but I haven't found any that specialize in airguns.
Walmart does carry a FFL, but I think that's due to the fact they sell ammunition still and , possibly, regular guns (although not in stores in my area anymore).

Basically, I have an idea in my head for a PCP type air rifle I'd like to try and make. Not an issue making one for myself as I have an Illinois FOID card, but if it works out and I find any interest from people willing to buy it, that's when I'd need an answer. Personally, I'd like to find out before that point.
 

weaselfire

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#9
Check with an attorney familiar with Illinois laws in this area.

Jeff

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wawoodman

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#11
And if anybody “official” tells you something, GET IT IN WRITING!
 
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