Trigger Happy: The airsoft gun craze in Hong Kong
It is not unusual to see a civilian carrying an assault rifle in Hong Kong, but looks can be deceiving. Strict gun control laws and the resulting absence of real firearms in Hong Kong has contributed to a rise in the popularity of replica weapons known as airsoft guns.
Legally categorized as toys, airsoft guns can look and feel like real weapons. They are often built with aluminum and stainless steel components, so they have the heft of a real firearm. Their muzzle energy is limited and they must fire plastic BBs, which makes them non-lethal.
In the United States, airsoft guns are strictly regulated. They are required to have an orange tip to differentiate them from real guns. In 2013, police fatally shot Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old teenager carrying an airsoft gun without an orange tip in Santa Rosa, California.
These weapons look so realistic they’ve occasionally been used in robberies. According to the Hong Kong Police Force website, there were six robberies staged with pistol-like objects, a category that includes airsoft guns, in 2013 and three in 2014. Despite these incidents, airsoft guns are so widely assumed to be toys that a person carrying one in public hardly draws a glance from Hong Kong residents.
The guns are so popular in Hong Kong that Jason Laimakes a living by renting out an indoor gaming facility known as CQB Studio to fellow airsoft enthusiasts so they can enjoy the challenge of combat without the inconvenience of bloodshed..