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Gel Blaster charge dropped NSW, misleading advertising blamed

A young Sydney man faced charges of illegally acquiring and possessing prohibited firearms after purchasing a ‘gel blaster’ online.   

Criminal Lawyer Joseph Correy recently represented an 18-year-old Sydney man who found himself charged with the criminal offence of possessing prohibited firearms after purchasing a ‘gel blaster’ online.  The young man purchased the gel blaster gun after seeing an advertisement on Facebook by an Australian based toy company and following the link to purchase included in the ad.   

Mr Correy successfully had the charge removed arguing that the advertisement was misleading.  The advertisement was placed by a toy company without adequate information relating to local laws being accessible by the defendant or as part of the purchase process.

It appears that it was a deliberate attempt by the toy company to target the defendant with their ads, regardless of the fact it is illegal to sell firearms in NSW to anyone without an appropriate license or permit to purchase prohibited firearms.

This is also against Facebook and Instagram advertising guidelines that clearly state Ads must not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.  Given gel blasters are considered prohibited firearms in NSW, they are, therefore, included in these guidelines.

However, it isn’t surprising that either the defendant or Facebook were confused.  While gel blasters are considered a firearm in NSW, they are merely deemed a toy in QLD.  The industry is dominated by “toy store’ sellers and is worth over $200 million annually in QLD alone.  Gel blasters have only recently been prohibited in SA.

What is a gel blaster?

A gel blaster is a device that looks like a military firearm and that shoots “gel” ball ammunition.  The gel balls mostly contain water and are typically 6-8mm in size.  The device itself is generally “low powered” and is similar in design to air rifles or airsoft guns, also commonly referred to as BB guns.  The main difference being the size and material of the ammunition it fires.

Gel blasters are also commonly referred to as gel guns, hydro blasters, hydro markers, gel shooters, gel markers, and gelsoft.

In QLD, gel blasters are still bought and sold as toy guns.   They are used most often for close quarter battle (CQB) or close quarter combat (CQC) style shooting skirmishes similar to paintball.

What are the laws around gel blasters in NSW?

It is illegal to acquire, possess or distribute a prohibited firearm without an appropriate firearms licence and/or permit to do so.

In NSW, the Firearms act defines prohibited firearms to be inclusive of those that substantially duplicate in appearance, (regardless of calibre or manner of operation), of the following;

  • Machine guns, sub-machineguns or other firearms design to propel projectiles in rapid succession when finger pressure is placed on the trigger.
  • Self-loading centre-fire rifles designed or adapted for military purposes.
  • Self-loading shotguns designed or adapted for military purposes.

It is also an offence to possess an imitation firearm without a permit in New South Wales.   An imitation firearm can include anything that looks like a fire arm that is not actually a firearm, regardless of its colour, weight, or composition.

Given that all gel blasters typically sold throughout Australia and all of those that have come into police custody are considered to ‘substantially duplicate in appearance real military-grade firearms’, they are, therefore, considered to be ‘prohibited firearms’ in NSW.

It’s interesting to note, however, that ‘Substantially Duplicates’ is not defined in the Firearms Act 1996, nor is it defined in any other Act of similar effect across Australia.

What is the penalty for illegally possessing a gel blaster?

It is illegal to acquire, possess or distribute a prohibited firearm without an appropriate firearms licence and/or permit to do so.

The maximum penalty for possessing prohibited firearms without a proper licence and/or permit is 5 years imprisonment.

If you point a gel blaster at another person and that person has not given you permission, you can face a sentence of up to 7 years’ gaol.

In the ACT, possession of a gel blaster carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in gaol.

What to do if you have a gel blaster but are not properly licenced to do so?

If you currently own a Gel Blaster you can do one of two things;

  1. You can apply for a firearms licence and to register the firearm.
  1. Surrender the gel blaster to police or certain firearms dealers.

With laws tightening across Australia relating to ownership and use of gel blasters it is imperative that you follow the above recommendations.

While there are some legitimate cases of ignorance relating to local regulations around firearm ownership, the increasing attention from local police forces and media is making it difficult to avoid criminal charges if you are caught illegally possessing a gel gun.

What to do if charged with illegal possession of a firearm?

If you have been charged with possessing a prohibited firearm and you do not have the appropriate licence and/or permit to do so, it is a serious offence.   It is recommended that you seek good legal representation immediately.

Australian Criminal Law Group have proven success in getting the best results for charges of illegal firearm possession including possessing a gel blaster in NSW.  We have offices in Sydney CBD, Blacktown and Parramatta so get in contact with us today to have your cases assessed.

Australian Criminal Law Group offers free first consults and fixed fees, making it affordable to get the best lawyers in Sydney on your case. Contact us via our 24 hour hotline today on 02 8815 8167.

 

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