By Jared Christensen
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
ANNAPOLIS – Members of the Airsoft community breathed a sigh of relief this week when state Sen. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s County, suddenly withdrew a bill that would have banned the type of imitation firearms used in the military simulation game.
Muse made the announcement at the end of a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing Wednesday evening while opponents of the imitation firearm ban sat dumbstruck in the meeting room.
“The Airsoft community is very happy right now,” said Jeremy Tolliver, a citizen advocate who helped organize nearly 700 Airsoft enthusiasts and businesses to oppose the bill. “The announcement has spread through social media like wildfire. The overall consensus is that their sport has been saved.”
Senate Bill 742 would have prohibited the manufacture, sale, possession, use or commercial transfer of imitation firearms like the ones used in Airsoft, a sport in which players participate in mock combat using military style replica weapons that fire six-millimeter-round plastic BBs.
Muse and state Del. Jill Carter, D-Baltimore City, who sponsored a similar bill in the House, said the legislation was needed to protect children and teenagers from police officers who might mistake their toy guns as real weapons. But opponents of the bill said it would severely hurt or kill the Airsoft industry.
Muse said he decided to withdraw the bill because members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee told him during last Wednesdays hearing that he did not have the votes to move the bill forward.
“My own police department and county council did not support the bill,” Muse said in an interview. “If any of the officers ever have to shoot someone that is holding a fake gun they would come to me and this is the opportunity to get it right.”
Muse said that without the support of his county it would be a waste of time and make no sense to move forward without the votes needed.
The House version of the bill – HB 879 – was also withdrawn.
Airsoft enthusiast and participants view the withdrawal of the legislation as a big win for their sport going forward. Airsoft participants who were interviewed said they view imitation firearms as more than just toys.
“Some people have sponsorships, play in tournaments and hold competitions,” Tolliver said. “It is taken seriously.”
Chris Trivane, the owner of Replay Airsoft Arena in Glen Burnie, posted a video online defending the sport of Airsoft (see below).
“We go through a lot of trouble to make sure that we’re providing not only a safe environment where people can play the sport, but also an atmosphere that is very enjoyable,” Trivane said. “This is not just some sort of frivolous sport where people are just running a muck causing problems.”
Muse said he hopes to gain the support needed to pass the bill again this session.
“I’m going to be pulling together a workgroup to find out what the problems are,” Muse said. “This could become a national nightmare. Referring to several cases in which children with realistic looking toy guns have been shot and killed by police, Muse added: “Let’s try to prevent this from ever happening again. This is the time to figure it out.”
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