Paintball in California Survives Bill SB798
What will become known as one of the most important off-field battles of the paintball industry has come to close, and it appears that paintball has come out on top. Earlier today, a public safety commission in Sacramento, CA voted on Bill SB 798, where if passed it would have had a dramatic effect on paintball in California. Out of a total of seven assembly members, five of them voted against the bill.
SB 798 called for imitation firearms, a classification that includes paintball markers and airsoft guns, to be brightly colored (i.e., orange) in order to distinguish them from real firearms. This was labeled as a serious concern to the paintball industry as it would require all paintball markers in speedball and scenario play to be painted a bright color.
The bill was fast-tracked along several steps of the California state legislature, which forced the paintball industry to act quickly. A number of top companies including KEE Action Sports, Spyder, Giant Paintball, and Tippmann banded together to create the California Paintball Safety Coalition, which then as a group formed the “Save Paintball in California” Facebook page, which served as a source of information about the bill for players.
Airsoft players line up outside the senate hall to protest the bill.
When a presentation date for the bill was confirmed for June 21st, three representatives of the California Paintball Safety Coalition made the journey to Sacramento to fight for paintball. In this group were Billy Ceranski of KEE, Howard Kosick of Tippmann, and Giovanni D’Egidio of Giant Paintball. Senator Kevin De Leon, who drafted the original version of SB798, presented the bill to the safety commission.
Billy Ceranski of KEE Action Sports
The most recent edition of the bill had paintball removed from the language, and after the safety committee asked why this had happened, Chief Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department got up and spoke on behalf of paintball. He mentioned that throughout his command history he had never encountered a dangerous situation with someone carrying a paintball marker, and that paintball should be excluded from the bill since markers do not truly resemble real firearms. It was a great honor to have the police chief of one of the largest law enforcement departments in the world step forward to defend the sport of paintball.
Giovanni D'Egidio of Giant Paintball
Some statistics were then released, which included that since 2010, the LAPD has had to result to using lethal force in over 20 cases where airsoft handguns were mistaken as real firearms. It was then revealed that in 2011 there has already been more than 20 similar cases, showing that this trend of mistaken identify with airsoft handguns is on the rise.
At this point the safety commission opened up the floor to public comments. Howard Kosick from Tippmann and Billy Ceranski from KEE both stood up and defended why paintball should remain excluded from SB798. At this time two of the safety commissioners left the hearing briefly and a vote amongst the remaining members was taken. A vote of 3-2 “against” the bill was cast, resulting in an undecided decision. After the remaining two commissioners returned, they as well voted against the bill for a total vote of 5-2.
While it does appear to be a slam dunk victory for both the paintball and airsoft industries, the committee did mention that the bill, once revised, could be resubmitted for approval as early as the beginning of July. Paintball is expected to remain out of any future editions of SB798, but that doesn’t mean that airsoft is out of the woods just yet, which is why many members of the paintball community and industry are stressing to remain vigilant and continue to support both the California Paintball Safety Coalition as well as the efforts of the Airsoft Safety Foundation as they continue to work on preserving the future of both industries for years to come.