A meeting today with Canadian Customs
We get a large volume of Canadian customers cross the border to shop at my store. I certainly appreciate the business, and we do our best to treat our Canadian friends well.
I've spent many hours reading old threads on this forum regarding the legality of bringing Airsoft guns back into Canada. I've also read all applicable sections of the Canadian Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.
Today, I decided to travel across the border and speak with a Customs agent first hand. I brought with me copies of the following documents:
1) Replica Firearms: Special Bulletin for Businesses #19, from the RCMP
2) Imitation Firearms Regulation Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 37, from the Canadian Legal Information Institute
3) Air Guns: Fact Sheet, from the RCMP
4) How the Firearms Act applies to you: Special Bulletin, from the RCMP
5) Criminal Code of Canada: Part III, Firearms and Other Weapons
I met with Customs Officer #13951 at the Rainbow Bridge Customs Office in Niagara Falls. We spoke for about 45 minutes.
I explained that I was a business owner in a suburb of Buffalo, NY, and that my retail store primarily sells airsoft and paintball guns and equipment. I said many of my customers visit from Canada, but that there is some confusion regarding the legality of importing airsoft guns into Canada.
I further explained that after examination of Canadian laws, that airsoft guns shared characteristics of both "imitation firearms" and "replica firearms". Replica firearms are prohibited items while imitation firearms have less restrictions.
I showed him the passage from the Replica Firearms Bulletin #19 that states "Some devices known as airsoft guns may qualify as replica firearms", and also "...various makes and models may have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis." I also showed him the Air Guns Fact Sheet that states under category "3. Air guns that are replica firearms" that "in particular, some air guns that are commonly called air soft guns may fall into this category." (Emphasis mine.)
I asked him what characteristics exactly would they be looking for to distinguish whether a particular airsoft gun would be deemed to be prohibited or not.
He opened a folder in Microsoft Outlook on his PC called "Firearms Info" and brought up on the screen three additional bulletins which I did not have copies of. He turned the screen so we could both see and we read together many passages from all three documents. One document in particular was very interesting and infomative as it was several pages and showed pictures of many different airsoft guns along with photos of real firearms and made distinctions as to why certain airsoft guns would be permitted and why certain ones would not.
He said they would permit airsoft guns into Canada if the following conditions were met:
1) must shoot under 500 FPS.
2) must have a plastic body
3) must not have any trademarks that match a manufacturer of real firearms
4) must be able to demonstrate that the magazine could not be capable of being used to load real ammunition
5) must have a orange muzzle tip
6) must be declared at the border and a 15% duty paid
7) must be transported in the trunk of the vehicle
He also indicated, indirectly, that the attitude, appearance and "air of responsibility" of the person crossing the border would play a factor.
Ultimately, however, they could still reject an airsoft gun meeting the above criteria. Sole discretion lies with the Customs Officer to make the call.
I asked what would happen if a particular airsoft gun which was declared was later found to be prohibited upon inspection. He said they would not seize the item, but rather would give the person the opportunity to return to the US, and return the item to my store for a refund. (Provided it was within a reasonable period after leaving the store that the item was returned, and it was obvious that the gun was still new and unused, of course we would issue a refund.)
So, despite the fact that most airsoft guns are classified as replica firearms and are prohibited, it appears that a small, but definable, category may sometimes be acceptable to bring into Canada.
Recently, a group of four Canadian patrons stopped by Canada Customs on their way back home after visiting my store. They also had a conversation with a Customs official who told them the same thing: plastic body, <500 FPS, no trades and orange tip would be okay.
So, now we have two meetings with Customs officials along the Buffalo-Niagara/Ontario border, within the past few weeks, with positive discussions regarding certain guns.
Thus, it may now be reasonably cool to purchase some brands of guns such as most JG's and Echo 1's (excluding the few newer models with metal bodies), and perhaps some G&G's that have the nylon fiber bodies.
While the restrictions limit the importation to a small handful of perhaps 2 or 3 dozen models of decent guns, anything is better than nothing.
I'll keep looking for good guns that meet these criteria and keep them in stock for my friends up North. I think this is good news for everyone. Let's be sure that everyone is polite, responsible and considerate with the Customs agents when returning home.
Systema PTW: It's not a gun, it's a religion.