The WA Government said gel blasters can be converted to real working firearms, so we put in a Freedom of Information request to find out what documents they had that supported the claim.

We have now received the response – and it came directly from the police minister, rather than one of his public servants.

When the WA Government banned gel blasters in June, it made the curious claim that gel blasters could be converted into “a real firearm” or ‘workable firearm”.

That didn’t make sense.  How could a plastic gun be converted to fire real rounds – and without causing serious injury to the user?  How could the perceived threat be so real as to justify a ban?

The gel blaster conversion claims

At the June 14 press conference, WA’s Police Minister, Paul Papalia, announced the ban. Standing alongside his Police Commissioner, Chris Dawson, the Minister said:

We are aware that many of the components of gel blasters are interchangeable with other parts and can be ultimately converted to a real firearm

A similar claim was made in a media release titled Government moves to outlaw gel blasters in Western Australia where the Minister stated:

Police also have intelligence that criminal groups are importing gel blasters and modifying them into workable firearms

NSC submits a FOI application

The NSC knew this was sus, so in June we sent in a Freedom of Information request (FOI) to find out what documents the government was relying on when it made this claim.

The response

The main part of the FOI was about the basis that the government had for making the claims.

The response, which arrived last week, comprises of three documents.

A further four documents were exempted from release but related to processes around the making of the new law which we weren’t interested in anyway – so we got the documents we were after.

The documents are heavily redacted because they also contain content not relevant to this matter, but the only part that is relevant to the ban is this one short passage in a letter to Federal Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews:

The advice is in draft form so it is not clear if it was ever sent to Andrews.  However it shows that the WA Government was arguing the case to the Federal Government that the conversons were an emerging risk.

We can only assume this was a move to argue why the ban needed to go nation-wide.  However as you will see below, this was said without there being any supporting evidence of the claims being made.

What did we ask for?

The FOI we put in was quite specific.  The questions we asked were:

What documents does the minister have that show the basis for making the claim that gel blasters have been converted into a real firearm or “workable firearms?

Apart from the brief reference you see above, no documents that show the basis for the claim exist. 

It means the Minister’s statements to the media and to Minister Karen Andrews that gel blasters could be converted, were without foundation.

Our own searches show that there is this report from Fox News in 2010 that suggests that there was one particular AR-15 model of gel blaster that could be converted.  At least theoretically.

Good ‘ol DKL with his
Slazenger AR-15

However, the story was based on a series of assumptions, including easy access to  AR-15 uppers with barrels – and a desire to spend more on the conversion than buying the real thing.

If someone had enough components, we’re sure that it would be possible to convert anything to an AR-15 – including some things that are uniquely Australian.

Never point a gun at anyone else …

What documents does the minister have that show if the claims about the conversions or modifications verified for their truthfulness, or alternatively if those claims had simply been made by someone?

Again, zero.

Remember, the government claimed that criminals were importing gel blasters and converting them.  The FOI response shows no-one from the government  checked to see if the claims were true.

What documents does the minister have that substantiated the claims prior to being made (eg by a gunsmith or armourer)?

None. 

If you check with industry experts, you’ll see how far fetched this claim is.   Click here to see this recent story out of WAMN News on local industry experts who spoke about the minister’s claims.

What documents show if anyone has been charged with any offence in relation to the alleged conversions or modifications, and what offences were they?

There are none.

There is no evidence that anyone has been charged with converting (or trying to convert) a gel blaster into a workable firearm – which tells you something about whether it can be done.

Also remember that Minister Papalia made (or drafted) the claim to Minister Andrews that gel blasters were being converted to ‘unregistered firearms for criminal use’ – despite there being no charges to that effect.

History repeating itself

This is not the first time we’ve caught governments out making laws without doing their homework.

Readers will recall the NSC pursued similar claims around ‘numerous incidents’ that the Federal Government had said justified our ‘appearance’ laws. 

We kept digging and digging and digging, to the point where we revealed that the numerous incidents did not exist.  The government could not provide any incidents relating to ‘appearance‘ but rather conduct that was already illegal, in relation to the use of replica guns.

Signed by the Minister

The other interesting thing is that the response to the NSC was signed by the Minister, with his direct email address provided for further contact.

First of all, we’re grateful for the Minister’s time and the fact it would seem he didn’t fight against the scope of what we asked for.

However it’s unusual for a FOI response to come directly from a minister.  Normally they come from public servants.  In fact during this matter, we had several interactions with a FOI officer who managed this query and we assumed he would be the one who would sign off on this.

The fact his Minister chose to do this tells us how concerned he must be about the advice he received. 

We can only assume that advice came from the other guy at the media conference, WA’s Police Commissioner, Chris Dawson.  In fact, we’re guessing that the Minister would be pretty annoyed that he’s been put in this position, while those who gave him the dud advice, seem to have gotten off scott free.

The conclusions

There are two logical conclusions we have from this.

The first is that the claims were false. If the government had even one document or instance of where a gel blaster had been converted, it would have been provided.

The second one is that the Police Minister shouldn’t let anyone get off scott-free.  He needs to sack his Police Commissioner.

33 thoughts on “The gel blaster conversion claim that wasn’t exactly true…

  1. Philip Walter says:

    To All who wish to know
    I have been involved in the shooting community for 60 years both as a civilian and military.
    Having been an armourer and owning my own gun shop and handling all forms of firearms
    There is No Way a gell blaster or air soft AR15 lookalike could be transformed to fire REAL AMMUNITION this would be a catroscpic endevour both for the user and manufacturer
    Parts are interchangeable for the lookalike factor but not operationally.
    People have tried and Failed and i have seen the horrific injuries sustained by such an endevour
    Dont believe everything you read on facebook
    Cheers philip walter

    • cohenite says:

      Good comment. Key words: “Parts are interchangeable for the lookalike factor but not operationally.” How often do we see anti-gun activists base their ridiculous comments on how a gun looks, as if appearances kill.

      Outstanding work by the NSC again.

    • Davin Evans says:

      Well said Phil, agree with you 100%. Unfortunately our overbearing rules classify Airsoft replicas as firearms because they fire a solid pellet. Gel Blasters were initially tolerated because they fire a soft water based pellet. When air rifles were classified as firearms and no one fought to change it, that has led to the gun haters to now be able to ban toys. The situation is a joke across the world. For people who enjoy skirmish sports here it’s a travesty of abused power.

      • Mark Mildenhall says:

        Actually, Airsaoft was banned in 1996 on apperance and because quote”they might be used in crime,” The only place they are actually listed as a firearm is in the Federal import rules. In WA the law on description of what is a firearm is anything that can expell a projectile. It does not give a description of what the projectile must be..it could be paper or lead. Gelball was initially tolerated because of the federal case where they were declared a toy. Then they became viable because a police firearms section that has failed in every ban they tried before needed an easy “win”

  2. jack says:

    Bullies always pick their mark ,so firearm owners get hammered ,but Druggies and Dealers are never included in witch Hunts .
    WHY ?, we can have Shooting Up Rooms ,but Shootings Ranges are severely limited in every State .
    Maybe it’s in the Interest of Certain People to give Tacit Approval for Drug Sales and Drug Use .
    Money Talks
    Jack

  3. Michael Campbell says:

    How can we make the Police Commissioner accountable ? There are too many people making false claims out there, need to call them out and re-educate them.

  4. Derrick says:

    Unfortunately, the truth does not matter to most people. If it did 0 we would not see this kind of propaganda leech it’s way through society. Too many people trust the press, and have no isea what you are talking about. If the press told you that aliens had landed, and had a masked reported in front of a mob, or military background – yes – aliens have landed and you will be a “right wing conspiracy theorist ” or “racist” to deny it. How else would people believe “climate change” was the fault of humans and make money from it?

  5. JAMES+BEATTIE says:

    If that head cop deliberately gave false information, what hope have we in getting a fair go in ANY dealings with “law enforcement” authorities? He got caught out lying. He should be sacked ASAP

  6. Acme Firearms says:

    Inspired by WA’s Police Minister, Paul Papalia’s claim, I dismantled my toy gel blaster with the intention to convert it into a real firearm. I intended to register it as a firearm when successful. Alas, I was disappointed. The parts are all made of plastic. Many parts are brittle plastic. I abandoned my attempt after viewing the quality of plastic I had to work with. Safety first, always. I must report that it’s an impossible claim.

    In the process of dismantling my plastic gel blaster, I broke fragile brittle plastic components, rendering it useless as a toy gel blaster.

    Touché, Minister Papalia … you got another gel blaster “off the streets”.

  7. Martin Dolan says:

    You can convert a gelblaster into a real functional firearm, in just the same way you can convert a drawing of a car into a real functional car.
    It’s simple.
    For the car, all you need to add are all the individual components of a real functional car. Hey Presto! Your drawing of a car has been easily converted into real functional car.
    Just apply that methodology to the gelblaster…

    I wish there was some sort of ethics / using (wasting) taxpayer funds fraudulently angle to get these idiots instantly dismissed. Isn’t that illegal?

  8. Adam+Basham says:

    You might want to do a FOI with the BATFE in America in regards to the converted Air Soft Gun. Technically yes it was modified to fire live rounds… I believe it self destructed in less then 10 rounds. Plus they had to do Machining operations on a milling machine to make it functional..

  9. Matt Boyce says:

    Ok, so you have discovered either a Minister lied or those giving him advice lied. This is good work (and we know it was a process you had to go through to prove what was already known by every firearm owner in the country), but what are the next steps? Where to from here. This is NOT the end of the battle it is the start.

    Keep on at them, don’t stop pressuring but I am hoping there is Botha. Tactical and strategic plan at work here to achieve better outcomes for all LAFO’s.

    • Neil Jenkins says:

      Hi David

      Sadly no. That’s another fight. It’s one that we would need the gel blaster industry to back us on but they have opted not to do that.

      Regards
      Neil Jenkins

  10. Davin Evans says:

    Good on you blokes for doing this FOI, it affects all shooters not just those involved in skirmish sports using Gel Blasters. This demonstrates how lazy policing can strip away our rights to even own toys.
    Unfortunately our overbearing rules classify Airsoft replicas as firearms because they fire a solid pellet. Gel Blasters were initially tolerated because they fire a soft water based pellet. When air rifles were classified as firearms and no one fought to change it, that has led to the gun haters to now be able to ban toys. The situation is a joke across the world. For people who enjoy skirmish sports here it’s a travesty of abused power.

  11. Anthony Ralph Darlington says:

    Given the above, what action is the Minister now going to take to rescind that decision?

  12. Carl says:

    If you did manage to set off a 223 round in a gel blaster you’d have converted it into a grenade, not a firearm.

  13. bob says:

    Continuing to do good work. It is really appreciated. The authorities are really beginning to reveal themselves as lazy and incompetent. Thanks Neil.

  14. Chad says:

    The fact that they knowingly lied on national media should be a legally chargeable offence and should be handled as such!

  15. Freddey Rugger says:

    O dear, we have been given another reality check. I have known for years that politicians and police are at the top of the tree for telling porky pies. Thank goodness for the N.S.C. though, I Do feel sorry for the rich S.S.A.A. people who have painfull hands, due to the fact they have been sitting there fat arses on them for so long

    • Bob says:

      Yes, as a club member I have to be member of that other organisation. Would love to know what they do.

  16. Robert says:

    Again, great work NSC.
    Thanks for trying to keep them honest, transparent and accountable.
    Pappalia needs to do his homework rather than depend on sycophants. He of all people should know better.
    So glad I signed up.
    When do I renew my membership?

  17. Gregory Samuel Conway says:

    How can these people be called “honourable” there is nothing honourable about them, they are just liars using lies to further their own agenda.

  18. Carl Box says:

    Well done on getting what we already knew, from the minister. Unfortunately it goes nowhere to enable the return of the toy for people’s fun.

  19. Jc says:

    G’day I have just been charged with possession firearms the firearms are gel blasters I live on the border of Queensland I think that the detectives are Gunnar go down that road will find out more halfway through this month I am frightened that they are going to put me in jail for owning a couple of toys and parts I did not know that they were illegal I bought them from a shop but the raid on my house by different groups of detectives I’m in a wheelchair and go to dialysis 3 times a week I was just bored and tried to make a decent one so I could be a sniper whe they play squimish but that ain’t happening now can anybody give me some advice please I don’t want to go to jail for toy guns

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