LONDON — Fake guns were confiscated from costume-clad enthusiasts before they entered London's MCM Comic Con over the weekend due to Britain's strict firearms laws.
Many of the 130,000 people who attended the three-day convention brought imitation weapons. But while blasters, battle axes and other cosplay accessories were permitted, imitation guns were seized or tagged for being indistinguishable from the real thing.
Black plastic pistols required an orange or red cap placed at the end of their muzzles and unloaded BB guns were allowed only with a license. Decommissioned guns were confiscated at the door and were only given back if the owner had a licence.
Private possession of handguns is illegal in the U.K. and the restrictions filter down to toys. Since 2007, realistic imitation firearms have been blocked from from being sold, imported or manufactured. Classifying guns as a toy means the piece is either brightly colored or takes the appearance of a pistol designed before 1870, with some exceptions.
While Britain’s 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act means most replicas of guns must be concealed when in a public place, this was a non-issue at Comic Con.
“If it’s a toy you should still handle it like it’s the real thing,” said 24-year-old Tom Scuffer, holding an EE 3 carbine rifle belonging to "Star Wars" bounty hunter Boba Fett. “I won’t even put my finger on the trigger for photos and in a controlled situation like this it’s fine.”
Actual weapons — guns, artillery and metal blades — are banned from entering MCM Comic Con completely. However, large displays of swords and knifes can be bought as collector pieces at specialist stalls throughout the show. A mandatory home-delivery system was introduced for the first time this year.
“We’ve sold a lot but postage is affecting us,” said Adrian Cordrey, the manager of The Sword Stall — which sells replica daggers from films like "Lord of the Rings" to those aged 18 and older. “It’s taken a third of our business away and is a knee-jerk reaction to political correctness of something that hasn’t happened yet. We’re selling to cosplay collectors. They aren’t people who are going to use these things dangerously.”
While the biannual event has had no prior incidents involving weapons — real or imitation — the new delivery system eradicates any possibility, marketing manager Charli Haynes said.
“You don’t choose to dress up as someone because of the weapon they have,” Haynes added. “You dress up as an anime character, superhero or villain because of their personality. The cosplay community looks out for each other. Those involved have active discussions about what should and should not be brought to the shows.”
Elaine Solomon, a mother attending the show with her 6-month-old baby, also agrees with the new rules.
“When I saw a stand selling real knifes I was a bit nervous, but then I saw that they post the weapons to you and it made me feel OK,” said told NBC News.
A shooting at ZombiCon in Fort Myers, Florida, earlier this month killed 20-year-old Expavious Tyrell Taylor and left four others injured. Last year, Darrien Hunt, 22, was killed by police in Utah from waving a replica samurai sword, which relatives said he likely possessed for the purpose of cosplay.
“If I saw a gun without a cap on here, I wouldn’t think it was an actual weapon,” said 16-year-old Heather Thomas in her Sonya Blade costume. “But I might if this event was in America.”