Kids and Guns: Three Problems With Airsoft Guns for Kids

Editor’s Note: The topic of kids and airsoft has been in the news because of the tragic death of Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old who was carrying an airsoft gun and shot by a police officer in California in late October. While the facts of that case are not yet known, the event gives all of us in the firearms community reason to pause and consider how we are educating the children in our lives about guns and what role airsoft games may play in the education of children in regard to firearms safety and operation. At Personal Defense Network, we generally stay very strictly within the bounds of information regarding self-defense and avoid discussion of politics or other shooting endeavors. We do, however, cover topics of firearms safety that relate to defensive firearms. The education of children in homes that have firearms staged for defense is a very important topic that we have not yet explored fully.

This article, from PDN Contributor Kelly Muir, is the first in a short series dealing with issues that families with defensive firearms and children under the same roof may face.

— Rob Pincus, Managing Editor, PDN

This is an image of an airsoft gun that looks like a real firearms and fires 6mm plastic pellets

“Airsoft guns” is a generic term for realistic replica toys or training devices that are made to look like real firearms and fire 6mm plastic pellets. (Photo by Rob Pincus)

A short time ago, my teenage son and I had a disagreement over my unwillingness to allow him to join his buddies for a neighborhood game of airsoft. In our upper-middle-class Midwestern community, it has become commonplace to see kids ranging from seven to 17 years old having airsoft battles both in their yards and in the community parks. It is a primarily residential area where perfectly tree-lined streets, large yards, and 100-year-old homes fill nearly every inch of the six-square-mile area. Sometimes the kids participate in airsoft games that span two, three, or even four yards. We are fortunate that our community also boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the state of Ohio. Because of this, if a resident saw a youth marching down the sidewalk with anything that they thought resembled a gun, it is safe to assume they would probably default to the belief that it was a toy rather than a real gun.

Overall, this community would probably not be one many consider to be in touch with gun culture. Few folks here hunt and a few more may have their permit to carry a concealed weapon, but in general, most residents are not very aware of the safety rules and regulations of real firearms. As such, most don’t know much about airsoft either. Even those who don’t necessarily like kids playing airsoft in the streets tend to tolerate it in the same way they would tolerate a late-night pizza party, loud music, or teenagers screeching their tires as they pull out of a driveway. Most parents don’t worry much about the safety of the kids as they play airsoft any more than they worry about their kids getting shot if they’re trespassing in someone’s yard to douse their tree in toilet paper as a prank.

Neighborhood Airsoft Games

So when my son asked my permission to participate in one of these neighborhood games, I initially allowed it. That was my first mistake. Before I tell the rest of this story, it’s important to understand that I work in personal defense. I am very familiar with defensive firearms. I clearly understand the safety regulations of firearms. And yet, despite my experience, I allowed my son to borrow someone else’s airsoft replica gun and walk to his friend’s home to engage in the game. That was my second mistake. In hindsight, I find that disturbing. It is very simple to say I should have known better. The truth is that because I am ignorant of the airsoft movement itself, I mistakenly placed it in the category of some enormously evolved Nerf guns. The “Next Generation” Nerf game, if you will. That miscalculation and my failure to investigate it were mistake number three.

Two hours later, I pulled my truck up in front of the young man’s home to pick up my son. Almost immediately, three kids came barreling out of the backyard with these airsoft replica guns that looked incredibly similar to real guns. Airsoft pellets were flying through the air. When a young man ran near my vehicle, one of his buddies took a shot at him. He missed and the pellet came right through my open window, hitting me on the wrist. I was startled. In anger, I instantly got out of my truck and went to retrieve my son from his position in the backyard.

This is an image demonstrating airsoft safety

Learning how to use a real gun properly will help kids understand the context of airsoft and airsoft safety. (Photo by Rob Pincus)

I was so bothered by the kids carrying the airsoft unsafely, pointing them in different directions without regard to backdrop, and shooting into the street with no regard for the safety of those passing by that I was literally shaking. When I found my son, he was more than happy to give me a big smile, gather his things, and head home. Though I wanted to reprimand him, it was painfully obvious that he had no idea how upset I was or how many things I’d just seen that frightened me. In short, he certainly didn’t think he or any of his friends had done anything wrong.

Driving home, my mind raced. How could a young man trained in aspects of real firearm safety allow himself to participate in something that so blatantly breached every rule he had ever been taught? How did I, as a mother who works with real firearms on a consistent basis, not realize what they were really doing? It was a double failure. I opted to stay quiet during the drive. As he rattled on about how much fun they’d had, it occurred to me that he didn’t make any connection between the two very different activities. In his mind, one was truly a game and the other was life-and-death. After seeing the “game” in action, it was clear to me that it would only take one mistake or misunderstanding to turn a fun game into a fatal tragedy.

That evening, I sat down and discussed my concerns with him. He seemed to understand. But just a few weeks later, he asked my permission to attend a late-night airsoft party in the neighborhood. When I realized that it didn’t occur to him how dangerous that might be, I decided he was simply not capable of applying common safety sense to the game at this point in his life. I felt uncomfortable with him playing airsoft in the neighborhood at all and chose that moment to let him know I would no longer allow him to participate in the neighborhood events in the future. In short, his neighborhood airsoft days were over. Considering it’s the pastime of many of his middle-school buddies, my new rule wasn’t well received. In his mind, I was the overprotective, non-negotiating parent. He was angry and I was frustrated. Even I questioned whether I had gone too far.

Real-Life Tragedy

This is an image of an airsoft referee

Every game of airsoft should have a referee or safety observer who is clearly marked and paying attention to the entire area of the game. (Photo by Rob Pincus)

Four days later, there was a tragic incident in California and a young man named Andy Lopez was dead. He had been killed by a police officer while walking home after playing a game of neighborhood airsoft with his friends. The police officer had mistaken the airsoft replica firearm for a real one. Andy was 13, my son’s age. Though only those close to the situation know exactly what happened when Andy was shot, his death seemed to be the result of something I referenced earlier — a mistake or misunderstanding that ended in tragedy.

There was collective heartache when pictures of Andy flew across the national media. Parents like me identified with him and his family, because many of us could easily see our child in that situation. The finger pointing began almost instantly. Some blamed the officer, others blamed guns, still others blamed society, his parents, and even Andy himself. As I read all the different perspectives, I thought, is it really that simple? I don’t think so.

As a parent, I am perfectly clear that despite my personal defense background, my attention to parenting, and my experience with real firearms, I made three major mistakes on the day I allowed my son to participate with his friends. I was also complacent. Beyond those airsoft problems I already mentioned in this article, let’s not forget the fact that I allowed him to borrow someone else’s airsoft equipment, never checked to see if the orange safety tip was in place, and didn’t review the boundaries in which he needed to stay. I didn’t tell him not to walk down the street with the airsoft replica and we certainly didn’t discuss what to do if the police engaged them as he and his friends were participating in the game.

When people review the limited information they have access to, it will be easy to “armchair quarterback” the entire situation: who was at fault, who should be held accountable, and how the tragedy could have been avoided. While all that may spark some true changes, most will likely end up being fodder for a heated debate. Simply arguing about the different aspects of the situation won’t create change, nor is it a respectful way to honor Andy. To grow from this situation and ensure that something positive comes of it, we must ask ourselves what we all can learn.

Lessons Learned

This is an image of a protective helmet

Proper protective gear must be worn when playing airsoft games. Photo courtesy PDT Teach

Personally, I have learned some powerful lessons about airsoft problems:

• Airsoft does not belong in the street, the neighborhood, the yard, or a park. It belongs only in a private facility set up specifically for airsoft.

• Airsoft is a game using firearm replicas. As a game, there are rules and regulations and, in this case, laws associated with its use. Parents need to educate themselves and their children about those before they allow them to participate.

• While taking a firearm safety course is not necessary prior to participating with airsoft, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a child complete one. When someone understands both firearms and airsoft, that knowledge will help them to respect each.

• All equipment must adhere to state and federal codes and stay in their manufactured states.

• Participants must consider the proper response if law enforcement questions their activity, and educate their children about how to respond properly.

There is no silver lining in this situation. It was a horrifying event in which a promising young man was taken from his family. But if his death has sparked conversations between parents and their children about the responsibility of airsoft and the safety measures that need to be in place when playing, perhaps we can keep something so tragic from occurring again.

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73 Responses to “Kids and Guns: Three Problems With Airsoft Guns for Kids”

  1. Simon Salgado

    Great read. I just got into airsoft to augment my handgun practice and experienced both at home neighborhood games and a private facility games. This article is exactly what we need to keep in mind when interacting with airsoft for sport and training.

  2. marcus gollmer

    Your kids in the neighborhood are walking around with the guns revealed? That is a error on top of being illegal. If airsoft guns are in public they are suppose to be covered. That’s very unsafe and asking for a tragedy. I play airsoft and have several guns, as long as everyone is adhering to the rules and safety procedures in place airsoft is a amazing sport. But, it comes down to being safe and intelligent about it.

  3. Joe Wilhem

    As you stated you as the parent made several mistakes. This is true of most parents today. It is easier to say yes then no. Both answers can be the correct a one, if the person is well educated in firm arms safety. The child is of a age both mental and physical that they are ready to understand and respect all fire arms. Both of these are a bi product of proper education from the parent. How, Where & When to use or play with Air Soft or for that matter BB & Pellet guns fall into the same category. All of which if used carelessly can cause harm or death to not only those playing but by standers as well. They are really not toys and need to be treated as such. Educate, train and practice gun safety at all times. Pull the trigger and you own the round and the results of your actions. I am not opposed to them but they must be used in the right place and time.
    The problem also is one of the realistic appearance of these guns. and how east it is for people young and old to alter the appearance to look so very real that it forces and Law Enforcement Officer to have to make a decision that could cost a person their life. Please do not blame a policeman if he has to decide if it is real or not and his need to return to his family that day.
    Educate, Train and use them in the right place and manor. I guess the place to start is the parent then the younger person, together they will learn to respect and use any weapon safely. Remember that man started killing each other with rocks and sticks, and as technology increased so did the means to kill one another. Guns to not kill People kill.

  4. kevin

    thanks for report nice to see other that think!! my son is 13 and has been taken to the range is versed in firearms and how to use them also went thru safety training courses he and his friends use air soft in our 3 acre fenced in area on various targets only !! I cant understand how a parent would allow their children to point and shoot these things at another person ..poor decision !!

  5. Mark

    I understand your concern. A local airsoft supplier near me has hosted an airsoft turkey shoot. As the acting Range Master I did my best to run the shoot as if it was a real gun Match. We allowed no automatic fire. this event ran for almost three years. We had no Safety Issues.. When I was growing up BB guns were common. It you looked around a number of back yard bb gun ranges were common. BB guns often were used to protect gardens from rodents so they knew that bb guns could kill. It sounds like you may have a problem in your town. It seems that the kids do not understand the potential danger. I would say I agree with your decision

  6. Bob Vine

    All my kids are grown and have kids of their own…Oh, wait, this article could give them some insight if this situation comes up. A great article; thanks for the insightful article.

  7. Jay

    Your article is spot on keep pushing the series. Why is any part of the weapon black with only a small orange tip that can be broken off, removed, or hidden? I know we have pink etc. but these should be totally fluorescent with no black. Yes there is always the argument a bad guy could paint a real weapon bright green, but I don’t think a 13 year old would to commit a felony. Let’s think “save a child”. Also, they should have only designated areas for use and transferred along with the proper gear in a case. You might consider some mention of paint ball weapons in some of your writings. Jay

  8. Mike White

    I saw the comment about using RED and BLUE colors for airsoft guns, but what about the blue, pink and other colors that are being used by firearm manufacturers for real weapons for sale to the public? People using airsoft guns should use them as an opportunity to teach firearms safety along with having fun with a valid shooting sport.

  9. gene mattsfield

    I got my first 30/30 rifle at that point i was no longer allowed to play with any play gun.

  10. travis

    great read, really an eye opener, I had no clue about airsoft, and have a 12 year old son who has not played, or asked about it, but know i feel much better prepared when and if the question comes up.

  11. Kevin

    Thank you, great article! I will be passing this out to my shooting and non-shooting friends and their families.

  12. Tobias Plucinski

    I have read through most if not all of the comments. I agree that this article brings up a great topic. There are quite a few good comments made and thoughts presented. I think most views are expressed and talked about except for one (I hope I didn’t miss it):

    Everyone talks about police officers taking lethal or deadly action against someone with an airsoft or BB gun that has been made to look like a real gun but I would pose another thought. Law enforcement personnel are trained to use weapons while the average CCW holder in many cases are not. What happens if a CCW person comes upon an airsoft or BB gun game and not realizing what it is, takes action.

    The need to teach young people, all people, about gun safety and to require them to participate in designated areas when using airsoft or BB is extremely important. It starts with parents and it can be a difficult learning experience for all involved. It is our responsibility to teach our children how to handle firearms, actual or toys.

  13. Hiram Wells

    Yellow tip makes it safe?
    Imagine this scenario, you’re a cop, it’s night, it’s an urban setting. You get a call alerting you to an armed criminal in the area. Suddenly someone turns the corner right in front of you holding what looks just like an assault rifle. What do you do? Your life or the other person’s life may depend on the next fraction of a second. Hoping the officer risks his life to wait to see that little yellow tip in the dark is not a bet I’d want to make. Don’t open carry an airsoft unless it’s obviously not a weapon (brightly painted or looks like something from Star Trek). Airsoft can cause serious injury so the basic rules of firearm safety apply. Firing wildly in an area with non-combatants is an unsafe condition. and could result in serious eye damage, arrest for reckless endangerment. or civil suits. As is with paintball, air soft battle should occur in designated controlled areas. Airsoft can be a lot of fun and a useful training tool, but like a real firearm, shouldn’t be in the hands of the foolish.
    Another thing I don’t like about off range use is that airsoft pellets are hard non-biodegradable plastic. Not the sort of substance I like scattered about my environment.

  14. Casey

    WOW! First of all AirSoft does not use steel BBs, they are plastic. They will sting like heck! Yes do not let any children play with them unsupervised! Sounds like a lot of fear being installed here. I have kids and they love playing AirSoft, and I enjoy the heck out of it myself! Yes they do have fully automatic AirSoft weapons. They should be respected, they do sting! That’s why there is a designated area with mandatory face gear for everyone involved! I take the time to do it and supervise. It is fun and safe when parents care enough to keep up with there kids! I can’t believe a lot of you have not heard of it, I am 58yrs old and those kids keep me young. Don’t try to outlaw the only thing that can get them of the computers or game consoles these days. Sure what outside doesn’t have risks? You just have to be there and supervise. If you don’t who will?

  15. Ali Baba

    OK! If you don’t bother to post my replies why the Hell bother to ask for them?… Not that I expect this one to make it to the board…

  16. Alibaba

    Well, let’s not actually draw a line here. Of course kids have fun with guns, and their discern about what the real guns can do is more than foggy! How an 12 year kidd would know through how many people a bullet fired from a 6″ barrel handgun would go? In the same time, training our youth to be comfortable,and know how to use guns, is the key of what we are. Yamamoto, after bombing Pearl Harbor said it right: “We just awaken a menace! Because beyond any blade of grass hides a man with a gun!”… I think that culture must be

  17. Lee Welter

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom: it helps us better understand such potentially risky games.

  18. Borg

    A cop would not easily be able to justify lethal force like this in Texas like they could in California since open carry of long guns without a license is legal in Texas. A cop could charge someone with disturbing the peace but that would still not justify lethal force.

  19. Graystone

    In the days of my youth – some 60+ years ago – things were obviously “different.” Air soft didn’t exist (though BB guns did), almost every ‘kid’ carried a pocket knife, hunters/hunting was the ‘norm’, serious firearm crime was usually committed by the e.g. mafia and the USA was a rural society.
    Unfortunately, and sadly, life is far different today. Using your pocket knife against another human was hard to fathom, much less commit. Parents knew where their kids were and if you had your BB gun out of the house at least one of the parents knew it. And, yes, there were the occasional BB gun fights when a kid’s parents found out about it – well let’s just say it might be a long time before you were allowed outside with your BB gun again. Almost everyone’s ‘dad’ hunted and boys and girls tagged along and dad – most learned proper gun handling – do’s and don’ts – by example or under supervision.
    As I said, sadly things are different today. The USA is an urban society and the number of hunters has declined dramatically. Most, perhaps the majority of youth today learn – what they ‘know’ – about guns from video games, t.v., movies, etc. Oh, sure, there are ‘gun families,’ those who are involved with gun related activities, but so many of our youth today are on their own when it comes to learning gun safety. It’s a busy life. If a kid wants to be involved with the likes of air soft activities parents either aren’t aware of their kid’s interests/activities or figure it’s something else their interested/involved in. Parenting 101 isn’t just “not practiced/understood” it’s skipped altogether. After all, we want our kids to grow up “quickly” become adults without ever being children.
    Even the author, Kelly Muir, who admits being a part of the personal defense community didn’t initially take the time to even ask or question what air soft was. Oh, so because they live in an ‘upper – middle class’ neighborhood kids carrying a gun down the street was taken for granted. And what about the parent(s) where the air soft games were being carried out? I can only imagine “Oh, it’s just kids playing with “play guns”.
    The blame lies with the parents – guardians, if you will. NO ONE else! Not the kids! And most certainly, Not the air soft guns!
    It doesn’t take a village to raise kids, it takes TIME. A parents time. If a parent is too busy to take the time to raise a child they better take a good close look at their priorities – or perhaps, if I may go so far – if their life/career is their main focus they shouldn’t have children. It’s one or the other.
    Ms. Muir, you don’t mention if there is a “Mr.” Muir, I agree with what you propose, with the exception of “All equipment must adhere to state and federal codes and stay in their manufactured states” I need clarification on what you imply. I make mention of a “Mr. Muir” because if there is such a person he most certainly Must step up to the plate and become a part of his son’s life, as well as you.
    Permit me to close my rant by saying – Education in all facets of your son’s life isn’t someone else’s responsibility – IT’S YOURS!! After all, what is your child’s life worth? Is it worth your time?

  20. borg

    California being as anti-gun as it is set the stage for the tragedy by banning open carry of long guns which gave cops carte Blanche to shoot anyone that appeared to be openly carrying. Andy is therefore a victim of anti-gun laws

  21. Jeremy Leets

    Kelly, thanks for your perspective! As someone who grew up with both Airsoft and paintball, I’d like to make a few observations.

    1. You’re right on all counts, there are a lot of safety issues and other things that kids don’t consider.

    2. Kids just want to have fun. Scheduling a time to pay to go to an airsoft park is not as fun as going out in the back woods or a local park with your friends. Its very limiting, because someone has to take them there, and fees do add up. Suddenly their every day activity becomes a once a week, then once a month, then they’re sneaking out to play in the park again because, at the end of the day, they just want to have fun.

    Given that those two points can easily be at odds with each other, the question becomes how to deal with it. I’m just glad I’m not in a position to have to deal with that on any more than a theoretical level.

  22. William Safford

    1. All A/S take firearms training FIRST.
    2. On a A/S range or inside a fenced yard
    3. All A/S weapons carried INSIDE cases.
    4. If the cops show up the command is GROUND WEAPONS and they all get put on the ground immediately.

  23. Frank

    Some of your concern is over the top!!! Having safety conversations with the airsoft player is common sense, similar to safety conversations about riding a bicycle (you didn’t mention all of the children killed in pools and on bicycles). Your BEST idea is making sure anyone carrying an airsoft gun knows how to interface with police.
    We can’t run our lives based on the farthest out incident we can find. All children should take a gun safety course, airsoft or not, guns in the house or not. If you ban airsoft in the back yard, you kill 80% of the airsoft games.
    Your experience shows the children involved did not have proper safety training, but I would have had a far different reaction.

  24. David March

    Thanks for publishing this. We want kids to be able to be kids, but it the present reality is that there are a lot of criminals with guns, and no concern for safety. An awful lot of them are kids themselves. Kids killing other kids. If it looks like a real gun — and thoughtlessly carry it into a store — you might get blown away by the person behind the counter. If you use a toy gun to rob a bank, you WILL be charged with use of a firearm in a felony, because that toy gun will prompt a law officer or armed citizen to use a real gun. Even if YOU are wounded or killed, the person with the REAL GUN cannot KNOW that yours is a toy. THAT’s why you brought it to rob the bank in the first place — because it looks like a gun and you intended for it to terrify the teller! Kids need to know how to deal with the reality of the world in which they live.

    Besides, I’ve seen too many times kids completely disregarding safety with those, shooting at their companion who’s wearing a mask, but completely disregarding the dog, frolicking and bounding all around the kids while the pellets are zinging around. Kids HAVE to learn safety. Hey! It takes some people a very long time to learn impulse control. Don’t be surprised if unsupervised kids do stupid things, even if they aren’t “bad kids.”

  25. Barry Duggan

    IN the military– we are taught to never point a weapon at anyone unless we are ready to shoot, wound, and possible kill them— toy guns are just way too realistic looking these days— back when I was young– a cap pistol was easy to recognize– as a parent I advise against letting a youngster fire anything without proper supervision— a former royal Ranger Senior Commander– when we let our boys shoot a BB gun at popcans or a 22 rifle at a target on the range– it was always supervised and proper gun safety was observed or we did not shoot at all— all our boys were well-disciplined as far as fire arms safety was concerned. Any parent who lets a child play with a fire arm or even a facsimile is undeniably irresponsible.

  26. John

    Too many people are cops that have no business being a cop. I had all sorts of ‘guns’ growing up. Westerns were on TV and kids all over had six shooters….glad the cops back then had a idea how to be a cop.
    But I have to wonder what changed? Their training?
    And police abuse in general seems to be getting worse…or maybe it’s just that there are cameras everywhere now that catch it.
    Anyway you cut it a kid should NEVER have to worry about a cop shooting him over a toy.

    • Jimmy Coe

      I agree with half of your statement, but it isn’t the cop not knowing what they are doing. The kid usually takes off the orange tip and people have no idea whether or not it is a real or fake gun. Then the kid points it at someone and a cop has to shoot because it is assumed that the gun is real.
      What needs to be done, is a kid should not threaten someone with any gun, even airsoft, because it WILL be assumed to be real. Also, try your best to make it obvious that it is fake. Put orange tape all over it. The only problem with that is the same can be done with a real one. And NEVER take it out in public, you’ll just scare a cop into shooting you.

  27. Jim Slough

    Good article and right on. I always worry about youngsters not having the maturity to differentiate between anger without violence and using a firearm to address an immature anger issue. I don’t like kids pointing toy guns at people. I think it sets the wrong example. You are exactly on target with your article!

    • Dave

      Then the issue here isn’t airsoft at all, but in the child’s demeanor for not being able to differentiate sport from violence. Frankly I am very surprised at how many people here in the comments (not the author) are quick to use the gun banning “logic” that the problem is an inanimate object, and not in people. If a kid thinks playing airsoft is like killing people, then I don’t think I would want him play any kind of sport be it football, baskeball etc. He is far too likely to correlate the violence in the sport for actual hatred.

      • Gary coates

        This argument about the gun being an inanimate object is just stupid. When people talk about control it’s the people having access to those inanimate objects. Nukes are also just dumb objects. People should be educated on weapon care and responsible use. They should also be a right only to coherent responsible citizens, people with a history of violent crime should lose the right. Mentally challenged should lose the right. Guns should be registered to owners and transfers documented so people cannot legally traffic weapons without accountability. Weapons used in crimes need to trace back to registered owners. If a weapon is stolen or lost it should be reported as such. All inanimate objects should have a traceable owner. Just like a car is traceable from cradle to grave. With rules like this in place the upstanding citizen has access the street punk offender will lose his right to own a weapon and it will be harder but not impossible to get a weapon but a portion of the thugs will not get access as easily. People selling their guns won’t be able to sell to these people because in doing so would be also be committing a crime.

    • Dave

      35 years as a LEO and 2 State certified police firearms instructor. I never believed paintball games were appropriate and same for airsoft. It is never correct to point and shot a gun, even toys, at another human unless you intend to shoot them with a real gun. The tactics used in airsoft can become ingrained into the persons mind and when the real life situation occurs improper and bad things can happen. Even in controlled playing fields I never believed in allowing individuals to shoot another person.

    • Ray

      My friends and I had Bb guns when we were kids. Never shot at each other -that’s nuts. We shot at targets with large backstops. The air soft guns I’ve seen in stores all carry the words “This is not a toy”. A 170-lb, 5’7″ 12-yr-old was shot and killed because he was pointing a replica pellet gun (with orange cap removed) at people in a public park. The media kept repeating his age, and he was “playing with a toy gun”. They partially reported the 911 call where the caller said it’s probably a toy, but didn’t report the other part where caller said the kid was scaring the hell out of him. The newspapers didn’t print the photo of the airsoft replica next to the real version of the gun. They just kept repeating kids age (not size) “toy gun” (not true), “playing with” (not threatening people with), and no air time to “scaring the hell out of me”. The article by this mother is dead on. A few of the juvenile replies prove her point.

  28. Rusty Baillie

    Sorry folks but the whole concept doesn’t work for me…….or my extended family. I don’t think shooting people is a fun sport. I have been military, a hunting guide, a target shooter and a CCW holder……..and I find that airsoft can be very useful for tactical training. But I think killing people (or even pretending to) should be done with more discrimination. True that kids, especially boys, play at killing when young (Bam Bam you’re dead!) but airsoft crosses the line, somehow. My kids get all the fun (and satisfaction) they crave shooting real weapons and, when they choose, they can train for real self defence and hunting. KISS………guns are weapons and safety procedures cover them all.

    • Roman


  29. David

    Even though, this is an old article, I feel compelled to answer to some of this. I initially got involved in airsoft in 2010, after my a friend of my brother and myself told me about a large event. So of course I had to go get my own personal airsoft gun, because I rather use my own equipment, but I used one of his. In the process of doing all this I did research on the safety.
    The event is a large event involving over 100 players, but it was held at an official field. This made things have the ability to control the safety. Being involved in an official airsoft event and field, I learned all the different safety rules of that field and event, based on their insurance policy.

    A lot of common sense ones such as the following:
    -minimum engagement distances for different guns (10 feet MINIMUM for all guns, within that range you shout out BANG, in theory you can do this to every player provided you got within range, but you were limited to 1 BANG with a 2-3 second cooldown time)
    -18 and over must wear proper ANSI approved eye protection (suggested to have other parts of the face covered with something like a shemagh or balaclava)
    – under 18 a full face hard shell protection required (i.e. paintball mask)
    – outside the game field (aka safe zone) safeties must be on, magazines removed, and a barrel sock/cover that is tied to the gun must be in place.
    – *****Referees / safety officers / judges orders MUST BE FOLLOWED*****
    – muzzle velocities must be within a certain value for a standard mass (.20g) based on your weapon classification. Sniper vs DMR vs other guns

    there were many other rules that were to be followed.
    It was because of my experience there that I enjoyed it so much, that in the future, I actually joined up as a referee/safety officer for one of the organizations. Let me tell you, I sort of was a “safety-nazi”.

    I would have suggested in your case, that the kids could all have their airsoft game, iff (old math logic name meaning: if and only if) they went to an official field and reserved field time for themselves. There they would be in a controlled and safe(r) [as nothing is totally safe] environment. Also, rules would be enforced for safety. They would not have issues with possible law enforcement intervention. And a few of the fields I’ve played at have different zones. Sometimes they are all open for big events so all the different zones have some tactical aspect, and when all open, you get different strategic advantages based on control of a certain area. And then on small skirmish games, the games are based on one of the smaller fields (such as a local field by me is an small suburban setting like Bedlam in Red Dawn, and another field is a carnival ground with all the little booths, another field is like a Vietnam area).

    It may cost a little more money in getting field/game time, but it is definitely worth it for both the safety aspect, but also you get terrain that can be used for different scenarios.

  30. Michelle

    I am a mother of a 15 year old boy who wants an airsoft gun for Christmas. I have been doing my research and stumbled upon this article. We are a family of hunters, my son included, and he has taken and passed hunter’s safety with flying colors. He has already assured me that he will wear protective eye gear, not use them outside in the neighborhood, and will apply gun safety rules, etc. He only wants to use them at an airsoft range and for “target practice” in our basement. I am skeptical because of the dangers possible, but he sounds like he is informed and will be responsible. I wonder, am I being over protective? Anyone out there willing to share their thoughts with me so that I can make a more informed decision?

    • cst

      You definitely are not being over protective. In addition to the potential accidents mentioned in the article an airsoft gun while not lethal can permanently injure someone if used negligently, maliciously, or without wearing the proper protective gear. It wasn’t mentioned in the article but these airsoft guns are used in reality based training courses. So when it comes to airsoft guns and children I recommend that parents treat it as they would a real firearm. Such as keeping it secured from use without adult supervision, always wearing the proper protective gear, and following proper gun handling rules as well. Since I referenced Reality Based Training and you might not know what was meant by it I have included a PDN video on the subject below. <>

    • David

      Michelle, I just wrote a response, when it gets approved you may want to read my experience, but let me append to my previous response to your specific question. Basement use could be acceptable as long as he uses full protection, and you have some way of noting the basement door that the basement is “HOT”. Reason: While I was a referee/safety officer, I was on the field a lot in the midst of the players. I even wore a highly reflective traffic vest (I do other work involving being in traffic). So out there I was prone to multiple accidental hits. There was no players near me and I was hit in the goggles a few times (without them I would be missing an eye or both). This is just being a bystander, not even in the line of fire of anyone. Another incident, ricochet!!!!!! Not to the face, but to the groin. Even though I was behind the player involved, he shot the gun with his sites above a window frame, however, the muzzle of the gun was still below the open area of the frame. I was probably about 6-8 feet back from him. So even with ricochet taking out a lot of the kinetic energy of the BB, it hit me in the groin and made a nice welt/bruise when I got a chance to look at my “battle marks” of being a referee later. I swear I got hit more being a ref/safety officer than I did as a player. Basically, because I was out there making sure everyone was safe. The other concern you may have will be the debris left behind. I’ve played at an indoor field, actually two indoor fields. It becomes a mess after awhile, not just whole round BBs but split BBs everywhere. You need to vacuum it all up, and also, depending if you have one and where it is at, your sump pump well. You don’t want BBs ending up in there and possibly jamming up your pump. Just a lot of different thoughts to think through before basement play. You may also want to board up all windows and anything else that is breakable will need to be covered. Also, in addition to having a sign saying the room is hot to keep people from walking down on accident, you will probably want a screen door (those magnetic ones that close after you walk through might work) inside so you can open the door and communicate, and also keep a spare set of eye protection outside the hot zone, so if you need to go down and communicate and you don’t know if he is still shooting, you can wear the safety eyewear before going into the possibly dangerous room.

      Just some thoughts.

  31. David

    Ms. Muir, I agree with you on a lot of what you said. Airsoft should not be played in the streets, neighborhoods, or public parks. Anything that replicates a real weapon and could be considered a weapon by the untrained eye should not be used or even visible in public. I used to be against the orange safety tip, but now I am totally for them! The only disadvantage to using them is when a player is trying to remain unseen. I think that players should know what to do if confronted by law enforcement personnel. As an event organizer of the hobby, I have seen many instances where kids (not adults, kids) have been confronted by LEOs and could have very well lost their lives because of their actions. Of course, if Airsofters play on a field, then there should be no problem. I saw a picture once with an officer holding two pistols of the same model. One was a real-steel weapon, and the other was an airsoft weapon with the orange safety tip painted black. It was a meme that read “Quick – which one’s real? Too late.”

    • David

      David, I have the same experience as you, and we are both named David, of being involved with organizing airsoft events. Here is the problem which I have with having the safety orange tip. Just as easy as it is to take off or paint over, it is just as easy as it is for a criminal to paint a gun into a florescent color.

  32. Brody

    This article is inaccurate. Have you ever played air soft? So what if you know gun safety ( A.K.A how to not shoot yourself) and you think kids are treating airsoft guns as they would treat actual firearms? I’ve got news for you … Air soft is a game . No person that has graduated from middle school would use a firearm as they would an airsoft gun! That’s like saying fifth-graders are going to start doing drive-by shootings and kill prostitutes just because they play GTA. Or kids will join the army and kill hundreds of men because they play call of duty. Jesus Christ woman! I know a kid got shot for walking around with one but honestly that was the officers fault. Stop nagging your son and let him play.(as long as he gets his own gun) Relax and stop giving air soft a bad name. Hell, try it and I bet you’ll be blind-firing in no time.

    • borg

      The state is the one at fault since by criminalizing open carry the state set the stage for the tragedy.

    • Bob Black

      Brody: you didn’t read the whole article, did you? Kelly is not saying airsoft is bad. She is saying that someone with a real gun (police) may not recognize weapons and activity as a game if they are used in our regular living environments (yards, parks). Read her recommendations – they are spot on and full of common sense.

  33. Greg

    I agree completely. A few years ago, a young man in our church planned a campout for the boys from about 10 years on up. I was happy to have my son go as I wanted him to get to bond better with the other boys in church. Then, a few days before the campout, the man notified the dads that the boys should bring their airsoft guns and gear. I responded by asking if they would be target practicing or fighting an airsoft war. He replied that they would be doing the latter. At that point, I politely said that my boy wouldn’t be attending the campout. He then suggested that my boy could do something else while the others had their battle. I then said that would defeat the purpose of his attending the campout, making him an outcast.

    He then called me, and I again politely said that we would not be attending. I explained to him that I had been trained to use actual firearms at about the same age as my son (10) by my father, a decorated combat veteran from WWII, and that my father had taught me all the safety rules, almost all of which are violated in airsoft battles. He suggested that the difference is that these aren’t real firearms. To which I replied that they were made to look like firearms and that playing a game teaches lessons, and the lessons it would be teaching would counteract what I was trying to teach my son about firearm safety.

    I explained to my son why I wouldn’t allow him to attend and he understood. I wish more folks who own guns understood the problem with airsoft battle. They are fine to learn basic firearm safety, but that’s not what most boys do with them. Just the opposite.

  34. Jake Tallman

    This was a well-written article. By way of introduction, I’m a 19 year old male, and a serious airsoft player (I’m also fond of shooting firearms). I’ve got over 2 grand worth of gear (including multiple rifles and pistols, and literally duffel bags worth of tactical gear).

    It’s a wonderful sport, but it sickens me that so many parents allow their children to get involved in the sport without acknowledging the relationship between airsoft and firearms. And I think you really hit the nail on the head with the mention of that mental separation; people seeing them as completely unrelated.

    Aside from the concerns about getting shot by cops, the fact of the matter is that modern airsoft guns are not harmless toys. They are, in the most basic sense of the word, weapons. I’ve seen people get their teeth chipped at 40 yards, I’ve seen BB’s lodge in skin (granted, that was point blank panic-fire from a heavily upgraded sniper rifle, but still….), and my buddy has a small scar on the bridge of his nose from a mid range shot that hit just right.

    It’s a great sport and it’s a ton of fun. With the proper responsibility (and respect for the power of these weapons), the risks can be almost eliminated and the benefits maximized. But that means that people need to treat airsoft guns like firearms and observe the four safety rules. And don’t tell me that’s impossible because airsoft guns are used to shoot each other.

    The rule is “don’t let the muzzle pass across anything you don’t intend to shoot”, and you DO intend to shoot members of the opposing team)s). You DON’T intend to shoot (well, hopefully) friendlies. So, yes, the rules can be deliberately followed in a way that transfers to firearms as well.

    Ironically, this is only really an issue at the little backyard battles kids have. At real games, the players are remarkably good about holding each other to those standards (arguably better than the firearm community, even). But at those little backyard games, if the parents don’t impose those rules, the kids (who don’t know better) certainly won’t.

    I think another thing that could be helpful is to get the firearm community on board as well. So many of us scoff at the idea of treating airsoft guns like firearms, and thus perpetuate the idea that they are totally different and that totally different rules apply.

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  36. Richard

    I have several airsoft replicas. Each of them came with instructions to NOT use in public places and warnings that they can easily be mistaken for real weapons.

    I applaud the author’s honesty and believe the situation was corrected properly, but the story demonstrates a sad but common parental unawareness of the content of their children’s activities.

    PDN is doing the right thing by bringing up this topic, but no amount of laws can fill the void left by negligent parents.

  37. Eric

    A yellow warning sign proclaiming “Airsoft Game in Progress” would be good to put on the street. To warn non players and LEOs.
    Any airsoft guns my kids get in the future will look like toys or get spray painted.
    My airsoft Co2 pistol can put a pellet through a gallon jug of water and crack glass baby food jars at close range. These are not toys.

    • Gert-Jan

      Please check. Airsoft uses 6mm bbs with a max weight of about .3 grams. It sounds as if you are using 4.5mm steel bbs? Not all BB guns are Airsoft.

      • Tommy C Sewall

        Spring powered airsoft guns won’t to my knowledge, do this type of damage. CO2 or other gas powered airsoft guns can do a lot of damage and should be considered as dangerous as any BB or pellet gun.

    • Bob Black

      A sign in the street is ineffective, making me think that you don’t get the message. Ineffective because if someone places a 911 call, how many policemen do you think will read all signs as they proceed while looking for people? Did you note how Kelly explained that a game can travel or expand? As a final point, what do you disagree with regarding her first recommendation?

  38. william Freier

    As Leo’s we have to play with red and blue guns, why not force toy manufactures to have they same colors in there toys.

    • Jonathan delPozo

      I agree with you. As a retired fed, I was a field instructor and yes, we played with the multi colored guns. But then we also had the M.I.L.E.S. weapons that were strictly controlled and supervised. Considering how many incidents have occurred with the air soft weapons, manufacturers should really give them a distinguishing color as well as the yellow button. The games should also be supervised. I don’t think its the same as when we all played “Army” with stick guns now is it?

      • Scott

        Caveat: there have been instances of criminals painting their real steel to look like nerf or airsoft. Airsoft needs to be played on a designated field just like paintball.

    • TomC

      The “blue gun” industry can’t even make up their collective minds what color to make the plastic model guns for police training — and neither can the police departments. The military was routinely using black plastic guns before anyone in law enforcement started using nonfunctional guns for training (and law enforcement only started using nonfunctional guns after several incidents where live ammo ‘somehow’ found its way into “unloaded” guns used in training). First there were blue plastic guns, then another company decided to make theirs in red. I have also seen them in green. Personally I think everyone would have been better off if the industry and law enforcement had collectively agreed on blue (a traditional color for “training” devices).

      Meanwhile, today live firearms are no longer all black, nickle, or stainless steel — firearms are readily available in every color of the rainbow and several colors that aren’t in the rainbow.

      Some states and cities require certain kinds of non-guns to have orange tips — but to the best of my knowledge, none of them prohibit live firearms from being orange or having an orange tip on the barrel.

      Sixty years ago, kids played “Cops & Robbers” or “Cowboys & Indians” with toy guns — most of which were not really all that different in appearance from real guns — and no one ever heard of a kid (or even a teenager) being mistakenly shot by a LEO or an armed citizen. Perhaps part of the reason was that even armed bad guys generally didn’t shoot at LEOs and therefor LEOs did not start from the assumption that every armed person not in uniform was automatically a “threat” and a valid target.

      Sixty years ago, outside the major cities of the northeast, it was not unusual to see firearms in the back window of pickup trucks — including in high school student parking lots. No one thought twice about it. And, oh by the way, none of those rifles and shotguns ever jumped out of the truck and shot up the school. Apparently guns have gotten a lot more dangerous in the last few decades.

      • Steve

        Its not the guns that have gotten more dangerous, but the people that illegally misuse them. Guns have always shot bullets from them no matter what type of gun it is. If the gun is not pointed at people then its not dangerous and it has to be handled or set up by a person to be pointed purposely or unpurposely. Guns dont kill people, irresponsible, unsafe, uneducated people kill people.

  39. Harold

    While i do agree carrying the yellow tip it is the best option to make the gun identifiable, there are also other means to carry it around without attracting attention like carry bags. Also, i do agree that this is a sport that should be played and supervised, it is regrettable that the kid got shot, but everyone played a mayor role in the incident, nobody thought something like air-soft could be as dangerous, yet websites and stores still warn about the dangers of such games and warn against playing or carrying on public grounds due to these consequences. gladly, you opened your eyes in time to prevent the same from happening to your own son, and hopefully, you like many others, help spread around the importance of creating these grounds in the community for a safer sport.

  40. Pamela Mackey

    Kelly, Thank you for your thoughtful article. I think it I s most appropriate on this site. My children are grown, but safety of all, children and adults, is always a first concern for those of us enjoying shooting sports. What a sad California tragedy for all involved. Thank you for constructive ideas and your example of how vigilant we must be.

  41. Sharon Gladson

    Thank you for such a good article, articulating exactly how I feel about this sport.

    • Kelly Muir

      I appreciate you taking the time to read through it. I think many of us have been trying to figure out exactly where we stand with this – especially within the past month. Writing the article actually allowed me to really sort through my own feelings on it as well!

  42. Jolyn & Bob Esquerre

    Kelly, Thank you for your insightful article. Having grandchildren who play air soft has certainly found this to be so important and we have forwarded this to them. Thanks!