Source: Newsday April 29th 2007
ALTHOUGH paintball markers are illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, the sport is becoming very popular here drawing a wide range of players from all over the country.
The game is a combination of childhood favourites “catch” and “hide and seek,” only much more challenging and sophisticated. A paintball marker, also known as a paintball gun, is one of the focal necessities to the game.
In a notice published in the daily newspapers recently, authorities warned that the markers fall into the category of “prohibited weapons” under Section 2(1) of the Firearms Act. Only police officers, members of the Defence Force or customs cfficers acting in an official capacity are allowed to be in possession of these “weapons.”
Paintball players try to eliminate opponents by hitting them with paintballs, containing non-toxic and water-soluble substances and dye, shot from a compressed-gas-powered markers. The markers harness the power of an expanding gas carbon dioxide, compressed air or nitrogen) to propel paintballs through the barrel. The use of the term “marker” instead of “gun” is to lessen the public view of paintball as a dangerous sport and paintball markers as weapons.
Speeds may exceed 300 feet per second (91 metres per second), although any speed above 300 feet per second is unsafe. At this speed, most paintballs will break upon impact whilst not leaving significant damage (mild bruising may occur).
Due to the extreme speed of flying paintballs, players and referees must wear masks to protect their eyes, mouth and ears when barrel blocking devices are not in place.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Winston Cooper told Sunday Newsday the decision to make paintball markers illegal followed intense discussions. “The Act was reviewed and after great discussion the decision was made. Now persons who are in possession of these markers are expected to deposit them at the nearest police station,” he said. Local paintball enthusiasts say they are perplexed by the “spur of the moment” decision to ban the equipment. One avid player, who did not want to be identified, said dialogue is underway with the police.
“We do not want to go down the route of severe legal action, so with these discussions we hope to have a positive outcome,” he said.
The sport, which is very popular around the world, was introduced to TT two years ago. “Whenever we play, which is mostly on weekends, there is always a huge turnout. Its a high energy sport made for team building and many people have found it to be very helpful as a good form of exercise,” he said., adding that paintball has become a business for him and his colleagues.
“Big businesses have called on us to host events where their employees are expected to learn how to work as a team. It’s a business, it’s not like an individual is smuggling in the markers, we were given permission before so the question is what made them change their minds?”
When asked what would he say to people who claim the sport is very violent, the enthusiast replied: “That us an archaic argument. The marker is not a gun, it is a tool. Too often we run from something we do not understand. The sport is not dangerous, from as long as we have been here we have not endangered any lives.”
He described the actions of the police as backward.
“This is a sport that needs to be embraced. What they are basically doing is banning a sport which encourages youths to come out of their homes and play on a weekend,” he said.
“Do not ban it, regulate it, have discussions with us before taking severe actions like this. If the end result is that it is banned I hope there would be discussions about compensation.”