Legal issues


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United States of America

Letter from the ATF

The following letter is from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Department of the Treasury Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Washington, DC 20226 As defined in section 921(a) (3) of Title 18, United States Code (USC) the term "firearm" means -- * (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; * (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; * (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or * (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm. As defined in 26 USC subsection 5845(f) (2) the term destructive device includes any type of weapon by whatever name known which will, or which may readily be converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellent, the barrel or barrels of which have a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter, except a shotgun or shotgun shell which the Secretary or his delegate finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes; and (3) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into a destructive device as defined in subparagraphs (1) and (2) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled. The term 'destructive device' shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signaling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684(2), 4685, or 4686 of title 10 of the USC; or any other device which the Secretary of the Treasury or his delegate finds is not likely to be used as a weapon, or is an antique or is a rifle which the owner intends to use solely for sporting purposes. It is unlawful for anyone to make or possess a destructive device which is not registered in accordance with the provisions of the National Firearms Act. We have previously examined that certain muzzle loading devices known as "potato guns." These potato guns are constructed from PVC plastic tubing. They use hair spray or a similar aerosol substance for a propellant, and have some type of spark ignitor. We have determined that these devices, as described, are not firearms provided that they are used solely for launching potatoes for recreational purposes. However, any such devices which are used as weapons or used to launch other forms of projectiles may be firearms and destructive devices as defined.

Interpretation of the ATF letter

"other forms of projectiles" is typicaly interpreted to mean flammable, and/or explosive projectiles; ie, that "potatoes" were an example of an acceptable projectile, and not the only option.

State, County, and City laws

These vary. It is generally illegal to shoot a spudgun inside city limits. The owner of the SGTC provides the following advice: "If it is OK to shoot a shotgun in your particular location....you will have no problem with your spudgun."

  • In Glendale, Arizona and Phoenix, Arizona combustion spudguns are considered firearms.

Subject: RE: potato gun legality The legality of potato guns are as follows. If the potato is expelled by the use of air it is OK. If any explosion occurred from gas, powder, etc. it is illegal and cannot be fired. The "firearm" definition is what dictates this.

Other countries

Australia

Information taken from my (Julz) posts on Spudfiles Forums. This information is as accurate as possible, however, may not be entirely correct as I did not speak to anybody of authority, I gained my information only from government web sites.

Please note, nowhere did I read that spudguns were definantly legal. Assumptions that they are legal are made on the basis that in a detailed list of prohibited weapons spudguns were not mentioned.

I am not responsible for any trouble you get into as a result of this information.

For the original posts, see here


Victoria----> Legal with a firearms licence. Pneumatic spud guns require a Category A firearms licence (they are classified as air rifles), whilst combustion spud guns require a Category E firearms license.

New South Wales---->Illegal - Requires a permit that cannot be gained without a legitemate reason for possessing the cannon. Quote: Item 2(3) Any device that is designed to propel or launch a bomb, grenade, rocket or missile by any means other than by means of an explosive, including a device known as a PVC cannon.

http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/file/5232/Prohibited_Weapons_General_Permit.pdf

Australian Capital Territory---->Legal? - I could find no referance to spud guns etc in this page, detailing prohibited weapons. http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/b/db_14541/19960829-16540/pdf/db_14541.pdf

South Australia---->? I could find no referance to spud guns etc in this page, detailing prohibited weapons. http://www.sapolice.sa.gov.au/firearms/prohib_weapon/weapon_type.shtml

Northern Territory---->Illegal

Western Australia----> A spud gun can be constructed and possessed legally, however according to state police it is not in the publics interest for one to own a spud gun, so it will be taken and destroyed with no charges.

A spud gun cannot be registered although it does fall under the firearm classification.

Queensland----> Combustion Launchers,Illegal in all forms.Home made devices not registrable.

Pneumatic Launchers,Can be legally owned as long as used in safe manner,police have right to confiscate at anytime and without reason.

http://www.spudfiles.com/forums/australian-spudgun-laws-t7419.html

Tasmania---->Unknown I could not find any page detailing what weapons are prohibited.

update on 2006/02/04 by Mountaineer Under Australian Law, a spud gun would be considered either a Compressed Air Gun (Class 'A') or a Muzzle Loading Firearm (Class 'B') depending on the propellant being used in the individual device. This is something of a moot point however as any home-made firearm falls under Prescribed Firearms legislation. Other examples of Prescribed Firearms include fully automatic weapons, modified firearms (sawn-off etc), silenced firearms, disguised firearms and firearms designed to fire explosive or incendiary devices such as bazookas and mortars. There are a few exception to the Prescribed Firearms legislation, mainly related to weapons made and used in theatrical productions. Theoretically, a registered gun owner with (for example) a Class 'B' license could have a gunsmith make a spud gun for them which could then be registered and legally used under purpose 2 (Target Shooting - unsupervised) of Australian law. However I find it hard to imagine anyone doing that when they could simply buy a "real" gun. I got all this information from "Firearms & the Law in South Australia" (c) 2004 Regency Publishing ISBN: 1 86393 404 9 which I am currently studying for my own license.

The Netherlands

All combustion (and hybrid) cannons are considered firearms and are illegal. Pneumatic launchers are considered air rifles and are legal on your own terrain.

Canada

By the Canadian definition, a firearm is any device capable of propelling a projectile at over 150m/s (there is a minimum energy limit here too, so don't worry about it for airsoft guns, but the minimum is insignificant by spudding standards). The law is very ambiguous on the matter. Regular spudguns are fine so long as they are used safely, according to the Ontario Provincial Police interpretation, but they seem to have an issue with 50mm bore 30x hybrids regardless of how safely they are used. Precisely where they draw the line (which is the really important line - if you are not arrested for it, the legal technicalities are a moot point) is unknown at this time, but is likely dependent on personal preferences.