Taxonomy, or what to call slingshots

Discussion in 'General Slingshot Discussions' started by tomtim, Apr 7, 2018.

  1. tomtim

    tomtim New Member

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    I'm new to these forums, so apologies if I'm asking a question that has come up before.

    Do you know has anyone ever tried to come up with a system for naming different types of slingshots? There are some aspects of slingshots that have good clear naming systems. For example, through-the-fork (TTF) versus over-the-top (OTT) slingshots.

    But other aspects are a lot more murky. For example, a slingshot with a fork extension is often called a starship slingshot. But if the slingshot has a fork extension and a trigger on that fork extension then people sometimes call it a slingshot gun, or a slingshot crossbow. I can see why people use these kind of names. They are sort of descriptive and try to give people some sort of idea how the slingshot works.

    A big problem with using these sort of names is that guns and crossbows are entirely illegal in many countries. Where I live you can go to prison for several years for the possession of a crossbow without a firearms licence for that crossbow. Yes, that's just for possession of an unloaded crossbow in a secure place in your own home. Bringing the crossbow outside your home, or firing it anywhere are more serious offences.

    That creates a big problem for anyone building a slingshot with a fork extension and a trigger on that fork extension. In principle it should be completely legal where I live, as long as I have it for a legal purpose, such as target shooting (but not home defence, which is completely illegal). It's a slingshot, and mere possession of a slingshot in a private place for a legal purpose is not illegal where I live.

    However, if a lot of people on the internet give it names such as slingshot gun or slingshot crossbow, it raises the question whether it is legal slingshot, or whether it might instead be a completely illegal gun or crossbow. Needless to say there is no definition of a gun or a crossbow in the laws where I live, so the meaning of the law really depends on whatever any particular court or judge decides it means.

    Has anybody thought about a way of naming or classifying slingshots with names that are less likely to get people into trouble with the law? It would be really good to find a way of naming different types of slingshots without giving them names of illegal weapons.

    Thanks!

    TomTim
     
  2. JimRhodo

    JimRhodo Junior Member

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    What you’re looking for I think is genteel euphemisms for sensitive folk.

    Prefix everything with toy and you’re half way there.
    Toy sling gun
    Toy sling bow
    Or hyperbole:
    Universe destroyer.
    Planet masher.
    It’s potentially silly or juvenile.
     

  3. Belargo

    Belargo Mad Scientist

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    It's always very difficult to change terminology once it's established.
    And to be honest, I don't see too much benefit from it, because the laws are the laws.
    In Germany for example, a slingshot with a fork extension and a trigger, as you described, is classified as a crossbow, no matter what you call it.

    I think JimRhodo has a good point in chosing some innocent name for your device, maybe a 'launcher' or 'accellerator' of some kind. But I doubt it will fool the police...
     
  4. JimRhodo

    JimRhodo Junior Member

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    Part of the problem is historical. If some idiot kids fire stones at the windows of tax payers the police will not easily turn a blind eye when they see another group of kids with catapults shooting near windows.

    The police will get involved no matter what the launchers are called. If no one sees you and no harm is done to people or property the police won’t even be notified
     
  5. tomtim

    tomtim New Member

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    This is a good point. From a quick look, it looks like German laws contain a description of different types of devices. So if you have some particular device, you can read the description of the illegal device, compare it with the device that you have, and try to see whether they match.

    My German is not great, so I'm afraid I haven't found the definition of a crossbow in German law. However, if a slingshot with a fork extension and a trigger is a crossbow under German law then I guess there must be some specific things in the description.

    For example, the description of a crossbow in German law must be clear that it is not necessary for a device to contain any sort of bow for it to be a crossbow. Similarly, the description must be clear that there is no need for there to be any sort of cross shape in the device. I guess that it instead talks about human-powered devices that store kinetic energy and use a trigger. This makes sense because the German word for crossbow (Armbrust) has no suggestion of either a bow or a cross.

    In contrast, the English word crossbow definitely has the suggestion of both a bow and a cross shape. So in the absence of any definition of a crossbow in law, a judge that needs to decide whether a particular item is a crossbow might expect to look for some sort of bow and cross shape in the device.

    It's not a question of fooling the police. In general I get the impression that German laws are quite detailed so that it is possible for someone - a judge, a police officer, or a member of the public - to read the law and have at least some idea whether a particular device is legal or illegal.

    In contrast, I live in an area with common law. The law simply says that one definition of a firearm is "a crossbow". There is no other information in the law about what a crossbow might be, just those two words. These types of definitions are pretty normal in legal systems that use common law and rely on the courts to define what very vague legislation actually means.

    So it's not a question of fooling the police. The police also have no idea what is the legal definition of a crossbow. My guess is that the police look for something that looks like a traditional crossbow, rather than a rubber-powered device that has neither a bow nor a cross shape.

    On the other hand, if thousands of videos and articles on the internet say that a device does not have to have either a bow or a cross shape to meet the definition of a crossbow, that effectively changes the law in dozens of countries. By changing the widely-accepted definition of a crossbow, we are effectively changing the law in those countries where crossbows are illegal but are not defined in law.

    We risk making slingshots that are entirely legal into crossbows that are entirely illegal. Depending on your attitude to weapons laws, turning legal slingshots into illegal weapons by calling them crossbows may be a good or bad thing. My own person opinion is that weapons laws where I live are already tight enough and that we don't need to tighten the further. But that's just my opinion.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    TomTim.
     
  6. tomtim

    tomtim New Member

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    Thanks for your comments. I guess they make a lot of sense in countries where weapons laws are quite relaxed.

    However, in countries with stricter weapons laws, it's not really a question of shooting at people's windows. What I'm actually talking about is firearms law. Where I live a crossbow is legally a firearm.

    Possession of an unlicensed firearm is serious crime in most western countries. You don't need to take the firearm out onto the street to get into trouble (although if you do, you will get into a heap of trouble with the law). You don't need to fire the firearm (but if you do you will probably be charged with releckless discharge of a firearm among other things).

    Similarly you don't need to discharge the firearm at someone's windows. If you do that you will almost certainly go to prison. No legal system is happy about people who discharge firearms into the windows of houses. That's probably attempted murder.

    Just possessing an unlicensed firearm in the privacy of your home is a very serious offence, even if you never take it out or use it. You can go to prison for many years for the possession of an unlicensed firearm.

    There is no distinction in law where I live between a crossbow and any other type of licensable firearm. The punishments for possessing an unlicenced crossbow are exactly the same as for possessing an unlicened handgun or rifle. So if a bunch of people on the internet are telling the police that some slingshot that I built is actually a crossbow, and therefore an illegal firearm, it really matters.

    However, I recognize that this is not an important issue for people in countries where weapons laws are more relaxed.

    TomTim.
     
  7. JimRhodo

    JimRhodo Junior Member

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    I don’t know where you are based but the uk is rapidly tightening up the laws. As far as weapons are concerned ‘intent’ and ‘threatening behaviour’ give a lot of scope for the police where the law is a bit grey. The ‘reasonable man’ though less ubiquitous still influences decisions. The interpretation of law regulations is mainly to reinforce 1. Threat to life and property 2. Threatening behaviour. 3. Cruelty to protected wildlife. 4. Public nuisance. There are more but these spring to mind
     
  8. tomtim

    tomtim New Member

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    That's a very interesting point. As I understand it the laws on weapons in the UK are similar in principle to those in Ireland where I live. The main difference is that weapons laws in the UK are very permissive compared to Ireland. For example, as I understand it, possession of unlicensed crossbow in your own home is not illegal in the UK.

    Similarly, I understand that licensing laws for airguns in the UK are very permissive and allow pretty much anyone to have an air rifle of less that 12 ft/lbs (about sixteen joules) without a licence. In contrast, almost any airgun is legally a firearm in Ireland, including paintball markers.

    You can also carry a folding knife of less than three inches in a public place in the UK, as long as it is carried for a legal purpose. In contrast, carrying any sort of knife in a public place (or indeed any sharp or pointed item) can be a crime in Ireland.

    Given that UK laws are relatively permissive about what sort of devices you can possess in your own home, the laws on what you do, or intend to do, with the device become much more important.

    So you can legally possess a screwdriver in your home in either the UK or Ireland, provided you don't intend to use it as a weapon. But if you keep the screwdriver with the intention of possibly using it as a weapon to defend yourself at some point, then you may be committing a crime by having it in your home. If you bring a screwdriver outside your home to a public place then you may be committing a crime if you cannot prove to the police that you have it for a legal purpose. And if you were so foolish as to produce the screwdriver in a threatening manner than you would definitely be committing a crime. These laws are very much the same in the UK and Ireland.

    The big difference in weapons laws between the UK and Ireland are about what you can possess in the privacy of your own home. UK weapons laws are very permissive compared to Irish laws. Pretty much anyone can have crossbows and airguns in their own homes, as long as they don't intend to use them as weapons and as long as they don't bring them into a public place.

    In Ireland crossbows and airguns are legally firearms, and just possessing them in the privacy of your own home without a separate firearms licence for each device is a serious crime.

    So in the UK you have access to lots of stuff such as crossbows and airguns, and what really matters is what you do with it. In Ireland, it's outright illegal to possess any of this stuff.

    TomTim.
     
  9. kindlebear

    kindlebear Slinger of Shots

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    Do you refer to the republic of or northern ireland?
    Then there are historical reasons involved which render logic or common sense useless
     
  10. tomtim

    tomtim New Member

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    Laws in the UK can vary from one region to another. But as I understand it, weapons laws in Northern Ireland are just as permissive as in the rest of the UK. So I think it's entirely legal to possess crossbows, airguns (up to a the 12 ft lb limit) and similar things in Northern Ireland. Even during the troubles in Northern Ireland, I don't think their government bothered to make crossbows or low-powered airguns subject to firearms licence. The region was already awash with with illegally-held military-grade weapons.

    I live in the republic of Ireland, which is one of many countries where crossbows can be held only with a firearms licence. Other similar countries include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Poland, parts of Australia, Spain and Lithuania. All of these countries have horribly violent histories, but so does pretty much every country in the world.
     
  11. kindlebear

    kindlebear Slinger of Shots

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    understood :)

    if a device, which uses rubber to propell an object towards a target (slingshot/slingbow/slingxbow/slingrifle/whatever) is or is not rated as a weapon or offensive/dangerous object mostly lies within the goodwill of the officer in charge.

    if you build a slingshot from a treefork with some office rubber and a pouch made from an old wallet and you start plinking soda cans in your backyard, without risking to damage anything but you own property and your neighbour calls the constabler. what is more likely to happen? a serious talk about responsible behaviour and the slingshot is confiscated - or will you be brought before the judge for owning dangerous weaponry and threatening public order?

    if in question, just go and ask a lawyer or local officer.

    here in germany slingshots with arm braces are forbidden. ownership is forbidden and will be punished. even if the frame is without the brace but is designed for and has holes/threadings to attach a brace.

    why? because back in the 60's some idiots used such slingshots during demonstrations and shot at officials. the law is very precise about the properties of such slingshots, regardless of the fact, that a PFS with decent rubber and a maxed out drawlength is way more powerfull in the hands of a trained user.

    a crossbow is rated a a firearm (though allowed at the age of 18 without any license). a speargun for fishing (using compressed air or rubber) is rated as a sporting device, as are bows.

    airguins are license free unless the power exceeds a certain limit, then you need a regular weapons or hunting license.

    and so on...there is no real logic...so use your commen sense and if in doubt...aks an official.
     
  12. Bugar

    Bugar Member

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    Good thread, interesting read, as far as slingshot, crossbow, sling bow and such name, my thought, just catapult should cover it, but it is at descression of officialdom I guess, I would think, that firearm should be for powderburning weapons, again, officials?
    Here in the USA, there are laws for most weapons, but most violators just do not pay attention, like everywhere else, enforcement is very wispy washy, on slingshots, most area just consider them as some kind of toy, few regulations anywhere, crossbows, a hunting weapon, if you want to use it for that, otherwise, maybe a toy thing.
    Guns, haw, that’s another thing, my guess 80% of people got guns, hidden, carring them, licensed, unliscenesd, stolen, theyr’e everyplace, just the way it is.