Gel blasters (otherwise referred to as hydro blasters or gel ball blasters) are replica toy guns that shoot gel pellets – or gel balls – that have been soaked in water. They're often compared to nerf guns or those used in paintball or laser skirmish due to their similar design.
The Advertiser newspaper recently reported that “gel blaster seizures and surrenders continue to rise in South Australia”. The message from South Australia Police is to surrender your gel blasters or face prison.
What is a Gel Blaster and how does the Firearms Act and Firearms Regulations classify it?
Gel blasters (otherwise referred to as hydro blasters or gel ball blasters) are replica toy guns that shoot gel pellets – or gel balls – that have been soaked in water. They’re often compared to nerf guns or those used in paintball or laser skirmish due to their similar design.
Since 8 October 2020, gel blasters have been declared regulated imitation firearms in South Australia.
The Firearms Regulations 2017 maintain that a gel blaster has the same definition as a paint-ball firearm (see Regulation 8A). So effectively, a gel blaster is defined as ” an air gun designed to fire or propel hydrated superabsorbent polymer balls or other similar gel-like projectiles by means of compressed air or other compressed gas”
And unsurprisingly, a gel ball is defined as a “hydrated superabsorbent polymer ball or other similar gel-like projectile designed to be fired or propelled from a gel blaster” (see Regulation 3 – Interpretation).
Under the Firearms Act 2015 (SA), a firearm is:
- A device designed to fire bullets, shot or other projectiles by means of burning propellant or by means of compressed air or other compressed gas; or
- A device of a kind declared by the regulations to be a firearm.
And since 15 April 2021, section 4 of the Firearms Regulations 2017 states:
- Pursuant to paragraph (b) of the definition of a firearm in section 4(1) of the Act, the following are declared to be firearms:
- A regulation imitation firearm;
- A gel blaster.
This means that gel blasters are classified as firearms in South Australia and accordingly, gel blaster owners must have a valid firearms licence in order to possess and operate their gel blaster, or run the risk of being charged with criminal offence(s).
Firearms legislation is complex and classifies different types of firearms under different categories, pursuant to section 5 of the Firearms Act. In turn, the varying categories carry different penalties. The gel blaster is classified as a Category A firearm because it’s included in the definition of paint-ball firearms.
For a period of time following the changes to the Firearms Act and Regulations, there was in place a declared amnesty, allowing gel blaster owners to forfeit their firearms with no repercussions. That declared amnesty has since ceased, but a general firearms amnesty remains in place – and not just for gel blasters but for all unauthorised firearms and/or ammunition – and can be found in section 64 of the Firearms Act. This means that gel blaster owners can forfeit their unwanted or unregistered firearms at a police station. In surrendering your gel blaster firearm, South Australia Police requires batteries and accessories to be removed. The firearm should then be placed in a gun bag or wrapped in a blanket prior to surrendering it at a police station or participating licensed dealer.
What are the consequences of possessing a gel blaster whilst not holding a valid firearms licence?
Section 9 of the Firearms Act 2015 governs the possession and use of firearms in South Australia and maintains that a person who has possession of a firearm without holding a firearms licence authorising possession of the firearm, is guilty of an offence.
The maximum penalty for such an offence relating to a gel blaster is $20,000.00 or imprisonment for 4 years. If the offence is aggravated however, the maximum penalty is $35,000.00 or imprisonment for 7 years.
This blog only explores one type of firearm which has received notable media attention in recent years. There are significant consequences for possession of unauthorised devices in South Australia. In addition to the Court process, you may also face implications with the Firearms Registrar as a result of being charged or found guilty of an offence.
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