West Australians in possession of a gel blaster after July 3 could face three years behind bars under a ban imposed amid concerns the toy guns look too much like real firearms.
Police Minister Paul Papalia warned a “tragedy [was] just waiting to happen” because the similarities between gel blasters and real guns meant police officers were “incapable” or “hard-pressed” to spot the difference out in the field.
He said that had led to incidents triggering a significant police response.
“It is a far too dangerous situation to tolerate any longer,” he said.
“When a police officer is responding to a call out, they will be assuming someone is in possession of a firearm.”
He said he did not want to put police in that position.
Mr Papalia said last year in WA, there were 147 police call outs to gel blaster-related incidents.
At the press conference highlighting the ban, the Police Commissioner and Mr Papalia both held guns which looked very similar and realistic.
Only the Commissioner was holding a real gun.
Ignoring ban to result in heavy penalties
An amnesty is in place until July 3 to allow anyone with gel blasters to hand them into a police station immediately.
Mr Papalia said anyone in posession of a gel blaster after that date would be subject to serious penalties of up to three years in prison or a fine of up to $36,000.
He said regulation rather than legislation was required, and the change still needed to go to the Governor.
Mr Papalia said gel blasters were also of concern because they contained parts that could be switched with real firearm parts.
“So they become an illegitimate means of gathering or getting a firearm,” he said.
Gel blasters used in two recent incidents
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said two gel blaster incidents in December 2020 and April 2021 were particularly concerning for WA Police.
“That took hours and hours before that man was disarmed,” Commissioner Dawson said.
Police were also called to a December incident in Ellenbrook where six males were allegedly carrying gel blasters, but officers had no reason to believe they were not real guns.