URGENT! Firearms Law for Reenactors: No Pistols at NJ Reenactments!

It is currently the position of the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey State Park Police (part of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, under which the Division of Parks and Forestry falls) that reenactors may not carry reproduction or original pistols or revolvers at reenactment events.  The Park Police is currently advising all reenactors not to bring pistols to events on state property.

New Jersey state law provides no distinction between antique and modern pistols.  While the law provides an explicit definition of “antique firearm,” this definition only includes rifles and shotguns.  The handgun definition, by contrast, covers all firearms designed to be fired one-handed.  In New Jersey, in order to carry a handgun, an individual is required to obtain a carry permit which, as is well-known, is nearly impossible to obtain for non-law enforcement individuals.  Thus, carrying a sidearm at a reenactment is technically a violation of New Jersey’s firearms law and subject to arrest and prosecution.

To my knowledge, there have not been any arrests made due to the carrying of a revolver at a reenactment.  However, both NJSP and the State Park Police have advised reenactors to leave all functioning pistols at home.  (Note: The statute does not apply to non-firing reproductions.  However, since most non-firing reproductions are indistinguishable on their face from firing reproductions, you may still encounter initial problems from law enforcement.  Therefore, it is advisable to leave even non-firing revolvers at home).

There are some exceptions for the travel and display of firearms, including pistols, for events sponsored by law enforcement, rifle & pistol clubs, and collector events.  Reenacments, however, do not fall under these provisions.  Therefore, it is highly recommended that all reenactors avoid bringing pistols as part of their impression.  This, of course, makes it very difficult to accurately portray officers of any branch and reduces the options for more unique impressions, such as bushwhackers, home guards, militia, armed civilians, etc.

This issue will likely seriously affect the ability to host and participate in living history and battle reenactment events.  It is my hope that everyone interested in history, the preservation of history through education, and historical interpretation will contact their legislators to address this problem.

36 thoughts on “URGENT! Firearms Law for Reenactors: No Pistols at NJ Reenactments!”

    1. If you’re in New Jersey, contact your representatives. Everyone focuses on the national election, but most issues, like this, are state issues. Right now, event organizers are told to advise participants not to bring pistols.

    2. I dont know if you recall but I got a letter from the state police when we were active that stated it was ok to carry the black powder firearms at re enactments which every one did at various battles in this and other states.

  1. British Brigade / Continental Line shows have never allowed pistols on the field except for Dragoons

    1. The law makes no distinction about firearms being taken on the field or not. If an individual has possession of the handgun and does not have a permit, the law states that that individual is unlawfully in possession of a firearm. Unless the individual is displaying it as part of a collector’s show or rifle/pistol club, then it’s illegal. I would hope no one would be arrested for having a flintlock at a firearm, but everyone needs to decide whether it’s worth the risk.

    2. Neil, then they will have less in Dragoons since the Insurance Underwriters said they will not cover if anything happens with swords. No swords in tacticals. Well NJ will see us the last time in September.

    3. Not true. When I reenacted with the Colonel’s Co. of the 42nd RHR, we carried brass-stocked Highland pistols as part of the basic impression. We did many NJ events, including Monmouth. However, I understand NJ’s concern, given the large number of violent felonies done with flintlock pistols.

      1. Allen are you an attorney like Evan Nappen who we can turn to for legal problems with firearms in this state?

  2. No more reenactments on New Jersey Park Grounds. Find privately owned fields and give any proceeds generated by the event to the owner or owners of the property. Or better yet no more reenactments in New Jersey period until this stupid rule is repealed!

  3. We must stop electing the same tired professional politicians! We need fresh faces who understand the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, people who will be concerned about the folks that elected them, not the rich power brokers who only care about their wallets! We need to have initiative and referendum returned to the people, not locked up in Trenton, guarded by a bunch of 2 and 3 job dippers! We must stop providing pension and health benefits to part time employees, which by their own definition covers all NJ state legislators. When did any normal person get these benefits while working part time? Revoke the carry permits of any and all politicians in NJ, until the general population gets theirs! Bottom line put some for real people in office, not bottom feeding demigods!

    1. As the law currently stands, muskets are covered under two provisions. The first pertains to long arms, in general, and anyone can legally possess if they have a Firearms Purchaser’s ID card, which is relatively easy to get. The second provision pertains to long arms being used for educational purposes, both being displayed and discharged. It would be a much more difficult time banning muskets – the law would need to change, not just enforcement policies.

  4. It is a shame that law enforcement has nothing more important to do than to threaten to enforce poorly constructed laws on Reenactors. These individuals donate their time, knowledge and resources to help preserve and further our rich history!

    1. For clarification, neither NJSP or Park Police has indicated that it has made any arrests. However, possessing a pistol without a permit IS a violation of New Jersey law and any officer would be on entirely legal ground for making an arrest or, just as importantly, instigating a search based on probable cause. My hope is that law enforcement would not make any arrests but NJ enforces its firearms laws strictly.

  5. “Equal protection under the law” doesn’t apply to Constitutional rights that appear on the Bill of Rights. In New Jersey, you can go to jail for 5 years for carrying a concealed handgun despite the fact that you can legally carry it in 36 other states. It just seems incredible to me that NJ allows this gross violation of our civil rights–specifically, “the right to keep and bear arms”–and to exercise that right will land a person in jail here.

    1. We have been ahead of Massachusetts for a long time. You can’t have a stun gun, pepper spray, baton, firearm, slingshot, crossbow or a knife on your person for self defense in NJ.

  6. My question is how does this pertain to an educational museum where the pistols are in locked cabinets. And when the museum is traveling through the state of NJ .

    1. Under federal law, as long as the firearms are legal in the point of departure and the destination, an individual can transport firearms otherwise illegal in the state in which he is travelling, so long as he does not make any unreasonanble deviations. There’s no clear cut definition of “unreasonable deviation” but generally speaking, stopping for gas, the restroom, a fast food place, etc. are considered reasonable. Note, however, that the firearms must be transported in the trunk (not the passenger cab of the vehicle) and the firearm must be in a separate compartment from the ammunition.

      As far as actually displaying the firearms, NJ law allows for a gun collector show to display firearms, so long as NJSP has been notified and all other safety measures are taken. NJ law allows the ultimate destination to be a point in NJ for purposes of gun collector displays, pursuant to this section. See NJSA 2C:39-6(f)(3)(c).

  7. First point, Reenactors have not been connected to a crime wave.
    Second point, nobody uses black powder weapons in crimes. I’ve never heard of a “drive by” musketing.
    Third point, the government enjoys pushing you around.

    Heaven forbid our worthless local, state, and Federal government actually do their intended jobs.

  8. Good Grief! It’s so easy! Just don’t attend any NJ events until the law is changed (or not). I call it a “do nothing” protest. Save your money and angst and attend events elsewhere. If NJ chooses not to rectify the situation then you’ll know your value to them. Don’t write letters, don’t send petitions, don’t make phone calls. Just walk away.

    1. There are many encampments in NJ. Most on private land like the Havens Homestead event for the Brick Historical Society this weekend. To fire any gun you need to be insured. Parker Press in Woodbridge is also this weekend. Parker Press is a city park in Woodbridge.

  9. These ridiculous laws are not new. Spread the word. There are bills being pushed to fix this, one piece at a time…such as A-3221.
    If you live in NJ, pack your firearms (pistols too) and drive to an living history event in PA, you would have violated the same NJ travel rules, if you get pulled over in NJ.

    Fight or Flight.

    1. We are fed up with these archaic laws. I support any and all legislation to rein in unreasonable impingement on my rights to own and carry firearms while in pursuit of my recreational sports and interests.

  10. This is a passionate issue for many. The best advice I’ve seen thus far in the post this far: contact your Legislator and let him/her hear your concern.

    It only took one person at a state wide event to ask a question: why are all those people carrying guns?

    It’s not taking a gamble by knowingly running afoul of NJ law, regardless how ridiculous you think it may be.

    Law enforcement officers won’t “look the other way” in these situations given the high profile status it’s been awarded.

    Work together and try to get the carry law changed in the Garden State.

    You are not alone.

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