Is It Illegal To Shoot a Paintball Gun at Someone?


Shooting paintballs at other players is the goal while you’re on the field, but what about in different locations? Can you legally shoot a paintball gun at someone who is not playing?

Whether it is legal to shoot a paintball gun at someone depends on where you live and the reason for doing so. In most cases, you should not do so unless it is legal to play on your property or an intruder has entered your home, and you have no other way of defending yourself.

The answer to this question is more complicated than a simple yes or no. This guide will help you decide if and when you could legally shoot a paintball gun at someone.

Can You Legally Shoot a Paintball Gun at Someone?

To answer that question, we need to consider several things:

  • The state you live in
  • Where you are
  • What is your purpose for shooting the gun?

None of these have a single answer because gun laws are not consistent from state to state. Some states allow jurisdictions (counties or cities) to create their laws, while others do not. It would be a lot easier if laws were consistent. Let’s explore why they are not. One gun law that is enforced nationally is that killing someone without cause is illegal. 

Shooting paintball at someone

Is a Paintball Considered a Weapon?

Laws are different for weapons and firearms. Your paintball gun is considered a weapon by the Federal Government. That’s due to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) decision that a firearm must be able to fire a bullet by an explosive reaction. Actually, the ATF uses legalese language to say the same thing.

Why is this important? Because if the AFT classified your paintball gun as a weapon, then laws about paintball guns would be more consistent. Instead, laws vary significantly between states, and those laws can include who can own or rent one. For example:

  • New Jersey and Rhode Island call all non-powder guns firearms,
  • Illinois and Michigan have limits to what a non-powder gun would be a firearm, based on the caliber or velocity.
  • Connecticut, Delaware, and North Dakota call paintball guns as dangerous weapons,
  • Age restrictions for non-powder guns exist in a long list of states, including Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Most states also forbid paintball guns on school grounds, either considering it a criminal act or a reason to expel a student.

The following states regulate paintball guns in some way. Most of them are age or location related:

CaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareFlorida
IllinoisMaineMassachusettsMichiganMinnesota
MississippiNew HampshireNew JerseyNew YorkNorth Carolina
North DakotaOklahomaPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth Dakota
VirginiaWashingtonWisconsin
States that regulate paintball in some way.

For more specific information regarding what your state allows, we recommend using online resources.

Note: Many states have regulations regarding transportation. To avoid getting in trouble when transporting paintball guns, empty the gun’s hopper, disconnect the propellant, and have the gun in a case.

Can You Shoot Paintballs in a City?

Since paintball guns are not lethal, people have begun playing paintball “wars.” Teams of players use buildings, cars, and other landmarks to hide and protect themselves. In doing so, they damage public or people’s property.

Police in areas where people have paintball wars say they will arrest and prosecute people according to the laws of those cities. For example, in Atlanta, using an air gun is against the law and shooting at a moving vehicle is a felony. Other cities are following suit.

Although paintball guns themselves are not lethal, in several instances, people have died because of gunshot wounds because of these “wars.”

These deaths are attributed to paintball games or random shootings of paintballs at bystanders and occur primarily in larger cities. Because the participants are not wearing face masks, they can even suffer eye injuries.

A paintball gun can also be mistaken as a gun. There have been several incidents of people playing with paintball guns in cities being shot by police who thought their gun was an actual gun.

Can You Shoot Paintballs on Your Property?

The answer is it depends on where you live and how the state or local officials classify a paintball gun. Remember that the AFT considers a weapon, not a firearm. However, some states or cities do classify them as a firearm, which lets them legislate them differently.

If a city does not permit you to shoot a paintball within its limits (except for paintball facilities) and live in the city, you may not shoot a paintball on your property. So, how does one know whether firing a paintball gun is legal? In pre-internet days, one had to call the city government, police, or sheriff’s department. Today, Google will most likely give you that information.

  • For example, if you live in Bradenton, Florida, slingshots and fireworks are illegal, defacing another person’s property.  If you don’t hit your neighbor’s house, you should be okay.
  • In Durham, North Carolina, discharging an air rifle, air pistol, or any other weapon is forbidden within city limits (except paintball facilities).
  • Butte, Montana, also restricts the shooting of air rifles within the city or county. Punishment for illegal discharging of air rifles is also listed.

Search by your city for paintball regulations. 

Can You Shoot a Paintball Gun at Trespassers?

The general principle with trespassers is that the response should be equal to the crime. Shooting someone who is on your property is not equivalent to trespassing. While trespassing would be considered a misdemeanor, discharging a weapon can be a felony.

  • Scenario 1: You shoot a paintball at a trespasser. They have a gun and shoot at you, and now they have a defense: “I thought it was a gun.”
  • Scenario 2: You shoot the paintball at a trespasser, and that person sues or presses charges. Because you were using a paintball gun, a jury would conclude you didn’t think you were in imminent danger.

In most situations, your actions would be considered assault, and you could be charged. It would be far better to take a picture, call the police, and let that person get arrested for trespassing. 

Can You Shoot at Intruders?

There are two answers to this question. First, there is a legal answer. But another answer is related to the effectiveness of doing so. 

Most states have stand-your-ground laws, some have limited stand your ground laws, and others have castle doctrine laws. In some states, you need to first try to retreat, while others only require you to believe that you are in imminent danger of being seriously injured or killed.

Your state’s rules regarding self-defense will not require as much research–this map will let you know its status. However, jurisdictions can legislate which crimes deadly force is applicable. You might live in a stand-your-ground-state, but the county you live in considers a burglary is not an acceptable use of a stand-your-ground law. 

Generally speaking, if you fear for your life, you can use reasonable force to protect yourself.

How Effective Would a Paintball Gun Be in an Intruder Situation?

Since it is nearly impossible to kill someone with a paintball, shooting an intruder should not land you in legal trouble, especially if you feared the intruder intended to hurt you or your family. But would it be an effective deterrent? 

You would need to have your marker assembled, attach a tank, fill the hopper with paintballs before even aiming.  And then the paintballs would have to hit the intruder with enough force to stop them accurately.

An alternative to loading your marker with paintballs is to use .68 Firestorm Police Caliber pepper balls. Pepper balls are filled with a tear gas-like compound that emits a 12-foot (3.6-meter) cloud of smoke.

Another alternative is to use a non-lethal gun such as the PepperBall LifeLite Launcher.  Because it uses the same technology as a paintball to launch the projectiles, it is not a handgun.  

Bottom Line

In general, shooting a paintball gun at another person is either illegal or not a good idea, unless you are on a designated playing field. Then game on!

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