Gel blaster playing field in the works as new laws set in
THE owner of a local gel blaster store says he welcomes new laws, which mean from next month there are hefty punishments for both carrying an unconcealed replica firearm or pointing and firing one at someone without their permission.
But AusBlasters owner Rocky Ballerini believes increasing restrictions are somewhat scaring people off buying gel blasters as they fear they could soon be outlawed.
Queensland is the only jurisdiction in Australia where they are legal to own without holding a licence.
From February 1, a change in legislation means replica firearms such as gel blasters will not be classified as a firearm or category of weapon.
They will not require a licence but need to be out of sight when transported.
When not being used, gel blasters must be stored securely but don’t need to be in a gun safe.
Anyone who owns a gel blaster must have “a reasonable excuse” for having one, such as being a collector or being a member of a club that uses them recreationally.
Pointing and firing at another person without their permission could result in up to seven years in prison and carrying an unconcealed gel blaster holds a maximum punishment of two years behind bars.
Police say more than 100 people had been charged with misusing a gel blaster in Queensland since 2018.
Mr Ballerini has operated his gel blaster store with his wife Tracey just off the Warrego Highway in Plainland since 2019.
“These laws are to protect and safeguard from any misuse of any product,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s going to have a dramatic impact on our business.
“I think what people need to be aware of is the awareness and responsibility of gel blasters more generally.
“We always keep our customers up to date with all the information leading up to any changes.
“Gel blasters are a very sought after toy. Back in the 1970s and 1980s little boys were running around with a cap gun but now it’s gel blasters they’re running around with.”
Mr Ballerini said customers raised concerns about whether the State Government will eventually outlaw gel blasters completely.
They are also wary about accidentally breaking the law.
“I say if you’re responsible and if you’re aware (of your responsibilities) then you’ll be fine,” he said.
“That’s part of our responsibility as shop owners. Our sales team make sure we educate all customers how to maintain and how to look after their blasters.
“We tell them have a chat with your neighbours, show them what you’ve got so they don’t get scared and contact the police.
“Let’s not go down the same path as in the 1980s where fireworks are now banned due to misuse.”
Mr Ballerini is hopeful of opening the first gel blaster playing field in the Lockyer Valley by the middle of the year.
The business, which employs seven people, could add an additional seven staff if it gets up and running.
“We’ve just got to find the right location,” he said.
“We’ve looked at four properties. We’ve got a bit of a heads up on a property which is around about eight acres that we’re going to look at next month.
“We can hopefully set up there with council approval.
“It would be a property we’d lease … it would be a permanent structure for us.”
Mr Ballerini said it was a common misconception that you had to be part of a club in order to own a gel blaster.
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“It frustrates the hell out of me,” he said.
“You don’t have to be part of a membership and pay annual fees.
“It upsets me that some people out there want to make money off the smallest things.”
Queensland Police Service Acting Assistant Commissioner Brian Connors said it was important for people to familiarise themselves with the new rules.
“Replica firearms, such as gel blasters, can look similar to handguns, shotguns and rifles from around the world,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Connors said.
“The public’s safety is of the utmost importance.
“Gel blasters and other replicas can look very similar to real firearms, and we don’t want them used to threaten people or commit crimes.
“We want to see all owners adhering to the new legislation with responsible storage, transportation and use of gel blasters.”
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.