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View Full Version : Re-enactors with real guns prompt change (NJ Gun Law)



indguard
11-07-2007, 04:11 AM
http://www.nj.com/printer/printer.ssf?/base/news-6/119432595627970.xml&coll=2
Star Ledger

BY JIM LOCKWOOD

Historical war re-enactors and movie/television actors who use real guns in their acts, but don't have state permits to carry them, are "technically" breaking New Jersey's firearms law, a prosecutor and gun-rights attorney said Monday.

That's the reason why a change in state law is needed to carve out exemptions for such use of firearms in historical re-enactments or theatrical productions, agreed Sussex County Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller and defense attorney Evan Nappen.

Both attorneys are part of a case involving the accidental shooting of a cowboy actor at Wild West City in Byram last year. The case is pending in Superior Court in Sussex County, where Wild West City owner Michael Stabile and manager Nathan McPeak each have been charged with violating a law intended to protect public health and safety and recklessly causing serious bodily injury, by allowing operable firearms to be used during the shows.

The men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Plea negotiations have focused on having the park's Western World corporation enter a guilty plea while Stabile and McPeak would be enrolled in pretrial intervention, a program that, if successfully completed, results in dismissal of all charges.

The Wild West City board of directors, who are Stabile and his sister, also have not yet approved having the corporation enter into the guilty plea.

A status hearing in the case was supposed to be held Monday but was adjourned as plea negotiations were ongoing.

Outside of court, Mueller said his office has been discussing the conclusion of the case. He said there would be some sort of grand jury statement suggesting a change or clarification in the law to either make it crystal clear that carrying weapons without permits, even in re-enactments or entertainment productions, is illegal, or to create exemptions for them.

"Technically anyone who carries an operable firearm without a carry permit at re-enactments is in violation of New Jersey gun law," said Mueller, adding that the Wild West City case "is a perfect example of what could happen. It's dangerous."

During a dramatization at the Dodge City theme park on July 7, 2006, a bullet struck re-enactor Scott Harris, 37, in the forehead and caused severe brain damage. Harris is still recuperating from the injury.

It is generally illegal to carry a gun without a permit, although there is a laundry list of exceptions. Historical re-enactments and film, television or theatrical productions are not among those exceptions. Existing law has not been strictly enforced regarding re-enactments and entertainment productions, they said.

"We both agree the Legislature should clarify this so folks in the historical community or entertainment business should have a set of laws they should be able to follow," Nappen said in a telephone interview. "Maybe the best thing about this case is it brings to light the problem in the statutes."

jda3rd
11-07-2007, 09:23 AM
http://www.nj.com/printer/printer.ssf?/base/news-6/119432595627970.xml&coll=2

. . . Stabile and McPeak would be enrolled in pretrial intervention, a program that, if successfully completed, results in dismissal of all charges.




Intervention? Huh? I guess the families and friends of the two men will get together and try to save them from their tragic gun-abuse and addiction. Bless them.

Frank

tompritchett
11-07-2007, 10:43 AM
Before everyone panics with a rash of "the sky is falling posts", let's remember that the key term here is "firearm". Most states do not define muzzleloading, replicas of historical weapons as "firearms". However, the pistols used in wild west shows do meet the criteria for being "firearms" under most state regulations.

Silas
11-07-2007, 11:57 AM
You are focused upon a legal definition of the word, firearm. Most folks do not draw a distinction between that and common perception of a firearm is. The legal definition can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

For example, my repro '61 Springfield is defined as an antique under the U.S. Code which means it is an exception to the definition of firearm for that particular chapter of the code. My repro is similarly defined and exempted in the Revised Code of Washington. However, the Seattle Municipal Code uses a more common definition of firearm. Actually, the muni code is ambiguous because it does not distinguish between rimfire and nonrimfire weapons. When I and my pards would hike in one of the city's largest parks in preparation for campaign events back east, we have been visited twice by the local cops after parks people got nervous about people with GUNS hiking the trails. Since I have met many officers in my occupation, there's never been any real problem. However, we got tired of being stopped by cops and park staff so we ceased marching in Seattle parks. Tacoma has similar provisions in its parks code, but we don't get hassled there. Same goes for the state and national parks because we don't get hassled there, either.

I also agree that the sky isn't falling. This is something which has made the press and is the typical man bites dog story. From my experience with the press, they usually bend the facts all out of shape by adding a dose of sensation. It's called a story for a reason.

A little regulation which includes some gun safety wouldn't be such a bad thing. Some reenactors I've seen on the line really scare me. I'm not just thinking about the fresh fish attending their first reenactment. Some folks who have been around a few years would do their file partners a huge favor by spending a little quality time reading and walking through the procedures for loading and firing from the manuals as opposed to repeating what they've always done.

bizzilizzit
11-07-2007, 01:36 PM
Before everyone panics with a rash of "the sky is falling posts", let's remember that the key term here is "firearm". Most states do not define muzzleloading, replicas of historical weapons as "firearms". However, the pistols used in wild west shows do meet the criteria for being "firearms" under most state regulations.

I lived in NJ for 43 years. Believe me, that State is paranoid about weapons. If you can shoot it with live ammo, it's a firearm, and you need a permit to carry.

Kevin O'Beirne
11-07-2007, 01:54 PM
Zoiks! The Law is after me for attending the Monmouth Civil War reenactment in 1995!

bizzilizzit
11-07-2007, 02:04 PM
Zoiks! The Law is after me for attending the Monmouth Civil War reenactment in 1995!

They haven't held that event for many years - since a reenactor was shot through the temple with a worm.

MBond057
11-07-2007, 03:55 PM
Black Powder Cannons and Muskets at Serious Risk

Fellow Reenactors,

Here is a copy of an email I received from a fellow artillerist. The threat to our hobby is real. From what I have been told by others, the CW artillery crew involved in this incident was performing an artillery demonstration for Boy Scouts at a public park that authorized and organized the event.

The crew never even fired the cannon on this day. They just had it rolled out on the field and were explaining CW artillery basics to the Boy Scouts and their parents when uniformed law enforcement officers rolled up and made the arrest. The owner of the original antique gun was hand cuffed and his cannon and trailer were confiscated and are being held as evidence.

As of this posting the NRA has gotten involved but the Sacramento area District Attorney is pushing ahead with the charges. I hope the judge has common sense and dismisses the case.

This doesn’t sound like the America I know………….

Here is the email:

“I am an active living historian and reenactor in California, and have recently been made aware of a very serious threat to our hobby. Please read the following and act if you can.

The California Department of Justice has improperly advised the Department of Fish & Game to confiscate an original antique cannon (Lyle Gun) and charge the owner for possession of a “DESTRUCTIVE DEVICE”. Subsequently, a Sacramento area District Attorney has picked up the case and is taking it to court on November 1, 2007.

They are misinterpreting the law to include any firearm 60 caliber or larger to be classified as a DESTRUCTIVE DEVICE, which includes, but is not limited to, muzzle loading black powder .69 caliber muskets, muzzle loading black powder shotguns, and antique muzzle loading black powder cannons (and replicas thereof). We all know that primarily because these antique firearms do not used any type of fixed ammunition that they do not fall into this category; however, it appears that they are attempting to swing a new direction.

The person unlawfully detained (originally handcuffed) and whose property unlawfully confiscated was performing a cannon demonstration to a troop of Boy Scouts, something he has done many times over the years and in an area safe & legal to do so.

For more details, and/or to provide any legal assistance you may be able to offer, please contact Mark Evon immediately at nickevon@sbcglobal.net

This could set a dangerous precedent that we all want to avoid. We are of course all hoping it is simply a misinterpretation of the law, which can be quickly cleared up in court, however, without assistance or proper legal representation, this could get ugly real fast.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration of this matter, it is deeply appreciated.”

jda3rd
11-07-2007, 04:29 PM
Well, to begin with, a Lyle gun has little or nothing to do with CW artillery.

http://www.cannon-mania.com/lyleguns.htm

A Civil War gun crew demonstrating Civil War artillery basics, using a Lyle gun? That's really, really basic, as in "Well here is a hollow metal tube that you can put gunpowder in, and make a big noise, and maybe not kill your self."

Now, demonstrating the Lyle gun as a life-saving device, is different. If that's what they were using the Lyle gun for, great, because Lyle guns were a valuable tool for many years, and should be preserved. But it ain't Civil War artillery.

I know that wasn't the point of your message, though. The fact that the owner was arrested and his gun confiscated is a problem. A serious problem, and one that all artillery enthusiasts ought to be concerned about. It points to the tendency of not so well informed law enforcement types to, you might say, shoot first and ask questions later. If they had asked the man what was going on the whole mess might have been avoided. It's possible some liberal anti-gun type saw it, freaked out, and determined to save the Boy Scouts the contamination of exposure to a (gasp) gun! May the owner of the Lyle gun can go through the same "intervention program" the fellows in New Jersey are having to go through.

Frank

MBond057
11-07-2007, 06:56 PM
Frank,

From what I have heard they also had a Mountain Howitzer with them. I’m not sure what else they might have had because I have never worked with these guys. There were some guys with Enfield’s but they did not confiscate or arrest these guys from what I have been told. I was also told they were wearing CW uniforms at the time of the arrest.

The court date has been pushed back to December. I would anticipate further legal moves before this actually goes to trial.

tompritchett
11-07-2007, 10:55 PM
Gentlemen (and Ladies) let's stay on topic here and not start any more discussions about the 2nd Amendment rights, else your post will also get moved to the Whine Cellar with the rest.

bob 125th nysvi
11-07-2007, 11:30 PM
is don't attend reenactments in NJ until this is sorted out.

Now before the chicken littles start suggesting you can't drive through NJ that is a huge mis-leap in logic.

First NJ police have no right to just start stopping and searching cars on a whim (and I somehow doubt they want to, most have enough 'normal' business without looking for more).

So you carry your gun in the trunk, for those of you with hatchbacks and SUVs carry it in a case or bag.

The other issue is that someone actually shot someone else!

So leave your ammo home boys, it is a plausable legal argument that you are not in violation of the law until the weapon is armed.

Remember there are two parts to every law, what the legislature wrote amd how case law creates the interpetation.

Silas
11-08-2007, 12:08 AM
That primer on search and seizure law is somewhat lacking. Same goes for the substantive legal advice about loaded verses unloaded weapons. The free legal advice is off point about whether the Garden State is going clamp down so hard on wild west shoot-'em-ups that CW reenacting there will be materially affected.

tompritchett
11-08-2007, 02:00 AM
That primer on search and seizure law is somewhat lacking. Same goes for the substantive legal advice about loaded verses unloaded weapons. The free legal advice is off point about whether the Garden State is going clamp down so hard on wild west shoot-'em-ups that CW reenacting there will be materially affected.

To me, NJ actions at this point are not really a threat to the hobby because of most of our longarms do not meet the legal definition of firearms as defined in their regulations. However, the actions in California that Mark Bond reported earlier in this thread do concern me greatly as these could effectively end the use of all artillery and smoothbores at CW reenactments in that state.

tompritchett
12-24-2007, 05:07 AM
Here is a copy of an email I received from a fellow artillerist. The threat to our hobby is real. From what I have been told by others, the CW artillery crew involved in this incident was performing an artillery demonstration for Boy Scouts at a public park that authorized and organized the event.

The crew never even fired the cannon on this day. They just had it rolled out on the field and were explaining CW artillery basics to the Boy Scouts and their parents when uniformed law enforcement officers rolled up and made the arrest. The owner of the original antique gun was hand cuffed and his cannon and trailer were confiscated and are being held as evidence.

Mark, have you heard any more about this case, as it would have serious implications for reenacting in states that adopt CA's definition of a "DESTRUCTIVE DEVICE"? I am hoping that common sense kicked in somewhere and a judge threw the charges out of court.

Curt-Heinrich Schmidt
12-24-2007, 05:50 AM
Hallo!

IMHO, a NJ discussion is good for residents and folks passing through or visiting NJ.

But, state and local laws are another "mess" entirely.

"NJ actions at this point are not really a threat to the hobby because of most of our longarms do not meet the legal definition of firearms as defined in their regulations."

Agreed.

But it is not always a Chicken Little scenario, as individual "jurisdictions" such as cities and states can impose a harsher and more narrower "definition" than the Feds, or even their own neighboring town. School boards as well.

For example, here is some language from an Ohio high school:

"The definition of a firearm shall include any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or any destructive device (as defined in 18 U.S.C.A. Section 921),.."

Under current Ohio Law, for me not to break the law, I need the written permission of the School Board to bring my ''Civil War" musket, bayonet, and pocket knife into the school. And the days of teachers inviting me with a phone call or an e-mail- while the usual "mode"- works great when it works but all it would take is a neighbor of the school seeing me carrying a long case into the school to call the local police and go down-hill from there.

At any rate, yes, our "muskets" are often exempt as being "non firearms" in Federal and many state and city jurisdictions.... although
Shoot (no pun intended), in some states our "Bowie" knives are in violation of 1880's anti-anarchist bowie and dirk bands still on the books- as well as restrictions on hunting knives and pocket knives as to not only length but also how and when one can carry one.

And I would not want to pack my M1860 Colt in my suiitcase the next time I head off to the airport for a flight... ;-)

Curt

(Who still remembers when Froggy John was stopped by a Michigan policeman for a tail light being out, and was arrested when the officer saw the Civil War stuff in the back seat. He was released the next day, and got his gear back a week later. The "Law" prevailed, but so much for that event...)

tompritchett
12-24-2007, 06:26 AM
Thank you, Curt. However, I was particularly interested in the California case because of prosecutor's interpretation that anything with a caliber larger than 60 caliber was automatically classified as a "destructive device" and thus could not be owned by a citizen. I am not aware of any other state at this time that uses that definition, but given the tendency of states to copy portions of another state's firearm regulations whenever they wish to make their own more strict, I am sure that this definition will ultimately pop up elsewhere. Therefore I was curious to see how it held up in a court case with potential application to our hobby.

Curt-Heinrich Schmidt
12-24-2007, 07:00 AM
Hallo!

Yes, indeed.
(There seems to often be 'copy-cat' knee-jerk responses at times, such as some problems a few years back with Henry's and Winchesters falling under "assualt rifles" because they have "magazines" greater than 10 (ten) rounds. As well as just weird stuff, such as "Brown Bess" muskets falling under military assault rifles.)

IMHO, we collectively need to be "on guard" and cognizant of these MASS, NJ, CA, type things for I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said:

"What the Government can do to one man today, it can do to all men tomorrow."

Curt
Once fond of live-firing an original Phoenix Iron Works' 3 Inch Ordnance Rifle

MBond057
12-24-2007, 07:16 AM
Thomas,

Happy Holidays!

I have heard that with the help of a NRA attorney the CA district attorney has agreed to drop all charges and return the confiscated ordnance and other artillery equipment. No further legal action will be taken.

It looks like common sense did prevail and there was no need for a trial. The NRA stepped up and did not request individual payment for their services. They saw the threat of more gun control and when asked for their guidance they gladly provide a free legal defense.

tompritchett
12-24-2007, 07:54 AM
I have heard that with the help of a NRA attorney the CA district attorney has agreed to drop all charges and return the confiscated ordnance and other artillery equipment. No further legal action will be taken.

Excellent news. I am glad that everything turned out well. I had been worried how this would turn out. Thank you for the update.

Huck Finn
12-24-2007, 06:24 PM
Sorry Tom. The sky is falling. Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria!

indguard
12-25-2007, 02:07 AM
Actually it IS pretty bad news (not that it turned out OK, but that the story happened at all.). These chuckle heads can't catch terrorists, but they had NO problem finding a dreaded CIVIL WAR REENACTOR!!

Yes, our "police" agencies show such wondrous competence!

... oops, I forget the "in" before that last word there.

RJSamp
12-25-2007, 03:40 AM
Actually it IS pretty bad news (not that it turned out OK, but that the story happened at all.). These chuckle heads can't catch terrorists, but they had NO problem finding a dreaded CIVIL WAR REENACTOR!!

Yes, our "police" agencies show such wondrous competence!

... oops, I forget the "in" before that last word there.

Agree, there are a TON more high priority issues facing Californians on an hourly basis....these yahoos are tieing up valuable assets/resources and going after the wrong priorities... I'd sure like to know what happened to them beyond dropping the charges and a slap on the wrist.....entry into their permanent records, reprimand, loss of pay, public humiliation, etc. I hope the record shows that they were the FIRST to aggressively volunteer their time by simply driving up to a fire fighter line during the recent Santa Anna wind driven canyon fires.... and chipping in....without receiving prior orders.

Idiots....can't live with 'em, can't live with 'em.

sigman
12-26-2007, 04:43 AM
My unit, 12th NJ, Co. K have a number of living histories and parades in southern NJ. Police have always respected us.

We sometimes fire volleys along a parade route and at some points right in view of local officers who never question us, but quite enjoy the show themselves. We receive compliments from them as well. It sure helps having a great reputation as a safety conscious group too!

Andy Siganuk 12th NJVI, Co. K

zouavebugler
12-26-2007, 04:55 AM
We, (Co. G, 33rd NJ) come from the area (Sparta, NJ) where the incident at Wild West City took place. We are monitoring this situation very closely and have had conversations with elected officials regarding the matter. We have never had a problem with the local law enforcement and there have been times when the township police have actually fallen in with us to take part in firing volleys at the Sparta, NJ Veteran's Day ceremony.

Doug Grunn
33rd NJ Zouaves
Principal Musician/Chief Bugler
Mifflin Guard
Mifflin Guard Field Music

flattop32355
12-26-2007, 05:00 AM
We, (Co. G, 33rd NJ) come from the area (Sparta, NJ) where the incident at Wild West City took place. We are monitoring this situation very closely and have had conversations with elected officials regarding the matter. We have never had a problem with the local law enforcement and there have been times when the township police have actually fallen in with us to take part in firing volleys at the Sparta, NJ Veteran's Day ceremony.

An excellent example of preventive maintenance and positive communication. It often keeps minor incidents from blooming into major issues.

7thNJcoA
12-26-2007, 02:32 PM
We have a great reputation with local law enforcement for being a safe and law abiding reenacting group in NJ. We monitor the situation and send letters to our reps and such but what is funny is we are not as concerned about it as folks who dont live or dont reenact here or dont even intend to do either are. I lived in Sussex County most my life (Sparta) and now live in Morris COunty and I must say I have never had any problem with reenacting or having my muskets. Honestly I feel this problem will be solved and everything will be fine. Until then we are still going to continue reenacting and our training camp is in NJ as well as a few living history events and small reenactments we participate in. I love living here the laws may suck for all those who want to own any gun and carry a bazooka but I register my weapons reenacting and Non and will continue to obey the Laws which make our community safe. I do wish it wasnt as strict but you need some kind of Law and Order and a way to "try" and keep guns int the right place w/ the right people. Im not stupid I know anyone can pretty much get thier hands on a gun but I like to think the 2nd Ammendment is still in action here and is properly regulated. What happened here is a simple error when making the laws and the lawmakers are at work as we speak to come up with a resonable solution. NJ enjoys being a host to many diffrent reenacting organizations as you see with every parade and all the living histories that are held throughout the state. This would not go on if we were the Nazi gun control state everyone fears.

ejazzyjeff
01-09-2008, 12:55 AM
I also live in New Jersey and so far haven't had any problems. Most of the events held here are well known and I believe that the police and the coordinators know each other and know what to expect.