Without reading this whole thread, only the first couple of pages, and the last couple of posts, I have a comment as an old fart. I've been into airsoft for over a decade, but I haven't played in 4 years or more, largely because of the lack of local interest where I live. I've owned and sold dozens of GBB's and TM AEG's over the last 10 years. At this point I'm really a collector. When I want to enjoy a scenario style game I play paintball now; I know, terrible me. The preamble is just to give you an idea of where I'm coming from.
Paintball went through something just like this in the mid 90's when Brass Eagle started putting out cheap plastic markers. Suddenly you had kids showing up at the local field with a $100 stingray thinking they could go up against seasoned players with automags and autocockers. There was a lot of bad feelings around this time.
The younger crowd with the cheap markers looked at the older crowd with the expensive markers as elitist, stuck up, snobbish, etc.. From the opposite point of view, the seasoned players with decent gear looked at the kids with plastic markers and were disgusted and embarrassed to play against such players. Other companies brought crap into the budget market, some companies brought good equipment into that same market, and paintball almost died in the late 90's, early 00's.
Now its stabilized, with players still buying crap, but at least more accepted, because that crap is at least field-able compared to the crap of old. There is still a divide, there is still lots of bad feelings exchanged, but its a lot better than it was. I regularly play with a variety of people ranging from 14 to 65, and I have found the same thing over and over. Its not the gear, its the person; its how the rules are explained. How you tell them what is expected of them. I have kicked more than one person out of my games in the last few years for not following rules, for not being respectful of other players, for a variety of safety issues (one guy shot himself in the foot 3 times in one day while in the safe zone.) It happens, but more often than not we have a good day, and no one bitches about the other guys gear.
I bring this up, because it sure seems like the same thing that is happening with airsoft now. Of course there are more reasons for the current issues; the law being a big one. I look at clearsoft and really don't like it, and I look at cansoft, and don't mind it. I think people hosting games need to be clear (no pun intended) that clearsoft is not acceptable as serious gear. Its a toy at best. Educate the players, let them see why saving a few hundred dollars up front will just cost them more down the road. But hey, let them play with that crossman stinger and get beaten up by the other players. Don't lay a judgement against a player because of his/her age. Take your time and help new players out, even if they have that Kraken instead of a $1000 full metal monster. You know what, a lot of airsofter's are snobbish and elitist, they seem to forget this is about having fun while playing a game. Yes, its a game. I know a lot of the concern about younger players stems from irresponsible use of airsoft/clearsoft/cansoft, but that's as much the communities problem for not helping educate that person. Paintball suffers the same problem.
I don't see this as the death of airsoft, but as a transition much like what paintball went through. Its going to change, that's for sure, but is that really such a bad thing? The elite serious players are going to see their games get smaller and smaller, until they rejoin the mainstream community and bitch about how the old days were better, but hey at least they get out to play still.