An Open Letter to Members of Parliament
What is Gelball?
Gelball is a sport and hobby that has grown exponentially in popularity every year all across Australia. WA has thousands of actual players and at least three times that who simply enjoy the hobby.
Gel blasters are toy guns (that can have appearance of real firearms) that shoot a water-based gel ball, the same easily-squishable sphere as Orbeez, using spring-powered air, usually around 250-300FPS (75-90 metres per second). It stings when you get hit but nothing like paintball and it barely leaves a mark (if at all).
Gelball games usually held at registered paintball fields and are open to all ages and sizes. While many players enjoy the MILSIM (Military Simulation) aspect of it, wearing tactical military gear and such, many just enjoy getting out in the bush and running around shooting their mates.
Gelball is safe, healthy, interactive and FUN. It brings together a wide variety of people and provides huge benefits to both mental and physical health. Whether they’re introverted video gamers looking for real life “Call of Duty”, on the Autism spectrum and seeking social engagement, combat Veterans that are battling PTSD or just average family folk, everyone loves the teamwork, physical activity and social interaction of our amazingly welcoming and inclusive community.
About the BAN
On June 14th 2021, Paul Papalia, the Minister for Police, and Chris Dawson, WA Police Commissioner, held a press conference to announce that gel blasters would be banned in WA starting July 3rd, when Paul Papalia amended the Weapons Regulations 1999 to include “Gel blaster” as item 11b under Schedule 1 (including the “gel-like missile” so Orbeez and other garden beads are also now illegal).
The reasoning they claimed included:
* Police call-outs that involved gel blasters numbered 1,559 from July 2017 to July 2019 and there were 147 in 2020.
* Their realistic appearance might mean someone will possibly get shot by police, either incidentally or deliberately (suicide by cop).
* Gel blasters can be converted to a working firearm and appeal to the criminal element for such reasons.
This ban also features:
* NO buyback, as it’s claimed these toys weren’t legally obtained in the first place.
* NO consultation with the community. Neither the various groups representing gelball in WA nor the businesses whose livelihoods relied on the sport were even given any warning that they wanted to ban gel blasters.
* NO consideration for the thousands of people that need and love this sport, or even the hundreds of Veterans, that use it for positive mental health (as Paul Papalia is also Minister for Veterans Affairs).
* NO impact analysis, or any assessment whatsoever, of the potential physical, mental and financial impact that this ban would have on thousands of West Australians.
Many of us are left shellshocked. The speed and intensity that this ban hit our community with left most of us sad and confused, and some of us ruined financially with our businesses now gone. Being told we had less than 3 weeks to give away our precious hobby that we spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on, for nothing in return or else we were criminals, was needlessly harsh. It caused massive community mental health issues and even the death of one of our valued members at his own hand.
We as a community are left reeling in the wake of this, and we just want our sport back. Many of us had little to nothing else like it in our lives and there’s little that can substitute (despite Paul Papalia’s suggestion that we should “find a new hobby”).
Those of us that are fighting to get our sport back are not only dealing with the devastation this ban has caused our lives and livelihoods, but also the erroneous and incorrect reasoning behind its inception. We’ve spent hours upon hours fact-checking the claims made in that press conference (and ensuing media statements) and can debunk, refute or otherwise shoot down each and every claim made.
How you can help
You, in your capacity as a Member of Parliament and as a representative of some of the thousands of people negatively affected by this ban, can help us by supporting/suggesting some possible alternatives to this blanket ban:
* Remove item 11b from Weapons Regulations 1999 (Weapons Act) and instead focus on harsher penalties for those that own these toys without “lawful excuse” (Section 7 of Weapons Act) and even appending or redefining what a “lawful excuse” should include.
* Reconsider the blanket ban of gel blasters as simply an increase in regulation rather than prohibition. Restrict use of gel blasters to registered people or events instead of restricting them entirely.
* Or, if all else fails, reclassify them as Category A Firearms and require owners to obtain a firearms license to own/operate a gel blaster toy.
Why you should help
The benefit to ALL of the people of WA isn’t just through the increased mental health and well-being of our community, it’s also got a significant financial aspect to it.
Gelball is not just a healthy and safe activity that’s enjoyed by thousands of West Australians, it’s increase in popularity has seen a nearly $200 million per year industry booming in Queensland and South Australia, and the jobs and businesses it was creating here were growing proportionally with the sport.
If nothing else, regulating and restricting gel blaster use to registered owners would create a substantial financial gain for the state in associated fees.
But mostly you should help because it’s the right thing to do. This ban came in without warning, consultation nor assessment, has a statistical basis that can be heavily refuted and does nothing more in a practical sense than punish the thousands upon thousdands of decent, law-abiding people of WA that love this sport.
We’re asking you, not just as your constituents, but as your friends and even your family, to please help us get our sport back. Please support us in doing whatever we can to augment this ban into something that works for ALL of the people of Western Australia.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Your gelball-loving constituent