Oregon Store Out $12K After Toy Guns Seized
ATF Says Toy Guns Could Be Made Into Real Guns
POSTED: 6:49 am PST March 2, 2010
UPDATED: 7:16 am PST March 2, 2010
CORNELIUS, Ore. -- The owner of an airsoft gun store in Oregon said he's outraged after federal agents seized his shipment of 30 airsoft rifles.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found the airsoft guns' internal components could be replaced with real machine gun parts in a short amount of time, allowing them to fire live ammunition.
But Ben Martin, who owns Airsoft Outlet Northwest, disputes the ATF's finding. He said the guns, which are designed to shoot plastic BBs, are clearly not sturdy enough to withstand firing a real bullet.
"It's completely ridiculous that they think they could make these shoot real rounds," Martin said.
Martin's store in Cornelius stocks many types of makes and models, but the model made by a manufacturer in Taiwan raised red flags with U.S. customs officials in Tacoma last fall because the airsoft guns closely resembled the function and feel of real guns.
Officials said the guns lacked the required orange tips for imported toy guns.
The ATF considers the seized toys to be machine guns and plans to destroy them -- a move that could come at a cost for Martin's business.
"That's about $12,000 down the hole," Martin said.
Martin said he has had other shipments seized by customs and border protection officials in the past. Often times, he said, he does not receive an explanation and he said the process is arbitrary.
In addition to firing small plastic BBs, some models of airsoft guns use compressed gas for propellant.
Similar to paintball, airsoft shooters fire the guns at each other in competitions. But airsoft guns are much more realistic in feel and function.
Martin admits it can be difficult to differentiate between an airsoft rifle and a real M4 assault rifle used by the U.S. Military.
"If you put it in someone else's hands who is not familiar with guns, they would probably have a hard time telling the difference," Martin said.
But Martin said the realistic look of the guns adds to the sport of airsoft's appeal.