I’ve been a reenactor since 1997. One of the most rewarding experiences is being able to take a love of American history and share it with the general public. Sometimes the opportunity presents itself at a reenactment at a state park, or a living history at a National Military Park. School presentations, however, present a great opportunity for reenactors to bring a love and knowledge of history to the classroom and demonstrate to younger generations that the history being taught in their textbooks was once the present – alive, exciting, and quickly unfolding.
Unfortunately, there can be major legal hurdles to bringing history into the classroom. Often, the educational programs brought into the schools revolve around a war, particularly the foundational wars: the American Revolution and the Civil War. This means that various types of weapons will ultimately be brought into the school. Given the current climate involving schools and weapons, most schools and police forces enforce zero tolerance for weapons on school grounds, taking no chances that the authorities might inadvertently allow a firearm onto school property.
There are, however, exceptions that allow for these school presentations in New Jersey (see a later post regarding Pennsylvania). Under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(e), bringing a firearm onto school property without the proper permission is a crime of the third or fourth degree, depending on what type of weapon or firearm he or she possessed. Even imitation firearms can land an individual with a disorderly persons offense.
This means that a violation can result in 3-5 years in prison (for third degree crimes) or up to a year and a half (for fourth degree crimes). Disorderly persons offenses can result in up to six months in the county jail. A third degree conviction will automatically result in a prohibition on the carrying of firearms under federal law (other convictions may prohibit, as well, under state laws).
You might be at risk for other violations, as well, such as possessing a firearm without a Firearms Purchaser’s Identification Card “FPID”). Unlike some states, New Jersey does not distinguish “antique firearms” from their definition of “firearm.” Thus, a reproduction or original 1861 Springfield, Lorenz, or Sharps (or even a Brown Bess or Charleville) is considered a firearm under New Jersey law and requires an ID to carry it. Not having the FPID might aggravate any other charges, as you would now be violating two firearms laws on school grounds.
Likewise, bayonets, pocket knives, blackpowder, minie balls, etc. all constitute prohibited items. Many reenactors and reenacting organizations do not consider some of these ancillary weapons (even a tent stake might constitute a weapon).
Obtaining the proper permission from the school is vital. Thompson Law Offices, LLC can provide you with guidance even if your organization already has forms in use. Remember that even if your organization has been presenting to a particular school for a long time, administrations change, in both the school and police force, and just because one administrator was comfortable with the forms does not guarantee that the forms were properly drafted or completed. This has the potential to open up the organization and its members to both criminal and civil liability.
Likewise, if your organization does not currently have any forms or procedures for securing the proper authorization from the school, Thompson Law Offices can provide you with the necessary forms and guidelines to obtain the authorization for you and your members.
Call today for a FREE CONSULT at (888) 866-6947, or e-mail questions to Inquiries@TLawLLC.com.