Friday, August 7, 2015

Op-Ed: Airsoft

NOTE: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the California Conventions Blog.

Also, the contents of this Op-Ed contains strong subject manner. Reader discretion is advised.

My photo shoot of Jonah from Jormungand at Wizard World Sacramento 2014. (Photo Credit: Yiu Ma Photogrpahy)
Back when I did my three Jonah photo shoots - Kintoki-Con and SacAnime Summer 2013 and Wizard World Sacramento 2014 - I had to be very smart about how I carried my props because as you can see, it looks almost like a real FN P90 with a holographic sight, something you would see special forces use. For the most part, I followed policy that most airsoft stores, ranges, and fields would use: carry your airsoft in gun bags (or in my case, a backpack) and used them only when you were ready to. They took zero tolerance to those who would carry them without a bag.

But then two things happened in the past year or so: conventions started to crack down on airsoft, and Ferguson.

I'll start with Ferguson.

Wizard World Sacramento was in March. Six months later, Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Then Freddy Gray was assaulted and died in the hands of police custody in Baltimore in April this year. And just recently, footage out of Gardena, CA showed two officers shooting a unarmed man following a traffic stop on a bicycle that occured in 2013. While these three events didn't involve any airosft, there was an event in Texas earlier in the month were two officers pulled a man aside at a Texas restaurant. Body cam footage shows the man pulling out a BB/airsoft pistol; officers shrugged him off, gave distance, and fired their pistols killing the man. Then there's Cleveland where a man with a "katana" was shot to death. And finally, two seperate incidents in Boston has sparked a movement on airsoft/BB gun regulation within that city.

Two things here to note: when officers are on a call or encounter someone with a weapon that can potentially harm them, they have no time to ask if it's real or not. It's a "bang-bang" situation (no pun intended) and unfortunately people and those affected by it, usually those who are on the short end of an officer-involve shooting/incident, won't understand the motives of law enforcement. As noted in the Gardena example, the man before he was shot dead had put his arms back down from a "hands up" position; even if he was unarmed, law enforcement could have seen that as a hostile move. And as we've seen in the examples above, it's not restricted just to airsoft/BB weapons.

The other thing to note is that since the early 90s, law enforcement - from the local to state and federal levels - have gained more and more legal power and the ability to perform most decisions without advice or counsel (such as "civil asset forfeiture" or how they use lethal/non-lethal force, because most of these incidents could of resulted in a taze takedown and not lethal force. Again, see the Gardena footage).

The other part of the equation is that some conventions are already outright banning airsoft or setting "extreme" policies.

Here's an example of that policy being set.

(To be honest, I never liked the safety tape rule because it destroys any authenticy to photo shoots involving real-world weaponry.)

FanimeCon and SacAnime share similar policies with both airsoft/BB weapons as well as "live steel."

Now there's a good reason why most of these polices, including airsoft bans, are set. The biggest one is that these conventions take out huge life insurance policies and if I were taking out a huge life insurance policy for something happening three to four days I want to make sure that you can get rid of as many dangerous variables are possible. Somehow I'm including squirt guns and legimately "non-lethal, non-airsoft weapons" with these "dangerous variables," but as a convention planner you have to account for almost everything.

However, I only live in California and the state has some of the strictist gun laws in the nation and therefore for the most part these are applied to airsoft and BB guns too as well. Other states are on the same level while other states are less strict when it comes to gun laws. But even in those states where conventions are held you still have to consider the previous point above as well as concern for overall attendee safety and promoting an "all-ages" event, not to mention complying with said laws set by the city, county, and/or state.

With that, since the events of Ferguson, Baltimore, Texas, and Cleveland on my mind combined with these new policies, I tell everyone now that I leave my airsoft at home for conventions, not even for photo shoots anymore. I'll leave those shoots to off-site on private property, away from anything. Besides, I don't feel like getting shot/tazed/taken down to the ground/arrested even though I have no reason to harm any people attending the convention and/or law enforcement. And I wouldn't want to hear tragic news of an attendee killed or placed in serious condition for being at the wrong place at the wrong time on a bad decision.

And I would advise the same to you. Leave your airsoft at home. Don't bring them to conventions. And if you're carrying them around for private photo shoots, make sure you're properly carrying them. And if you're carrying any sort of weapon that is allowed on convention grounds, please be smart and obey all orders from law enforcement no matter how "injustified" it may be.

If anything, now would be a good time to transition to shooting a live firearm at a range because odds are the laws will make the two almost the same thing - lethal.

- Matthew

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