Reenacting and Gun Control II

February 8, 2013 - 2 Comments

by Jim Barnes


I picked this up from a reenactor list the other day.  The author wishes to remain anonymous, but he has some pretty interesting things to say and helpful hints regardless of your impression:

We had a meeting here in (New England) yesterday for area reenactors and unit commanders, it was a positive and productive meeting. One of the many topics that was discussed was the potential effects of new gun laws on reenactors. One of the guys who spoke is a police officer and he told us that going forward, if a person from out of state is traveling in Massachusetts with a firearm and that person is stopped by police and the weapon is found, the standard recommended protocol for the officer is to confiscate the weapon, even if the person is legally entitled to have the weapon in his home state. This directive is to cover the officer’s ass. Now before someone says that federal laws make that illegal, I need to point out that you do not need to break any actual laws for police to arrest you and confiscate your property. Another reenactor related how in 2001 he was involved in a minor traffic accident while coming back from a public display, he was wearing a GI uniform and had two dummy guns and a helmet in his vehicle. The other party in the accident was frightened by the uniform and called the police, the officer found a helmet in the car, called it “body armor” and the guy was arrested and all his weapons and gear confiscated. All charges were later dropped but the arrest, legal fees, lost wages, and the cost to replace gear that disappeared while in police custody during the legal proceedings added up to around $3,000. A similar story happened to a guy in my group who was arrested and charged with a number of offences for having a dummy MG34 on the Kuebelwagen in his shop parking lot in Connecticut. These incidents occurred years ago prior to the current debates over increased gun control legislation and it has to be assumed that such incidents will be increasingly more likely over time. At the meeting we heard the following guidelines from the perspective of a police officer and these guidelines were encouraged at the meeting for all WWII reenactors.

-Never wear any part of your uniform traveling to/from events.

-Never have any part of your uniform or equipment visible in your car.

-Disassemble all firearms as much as possible and hide them in your vehicle where they are least likely to be seen.

I strongly encourage everyone to follow these guidelines and hope to see this become a standard practice for my unit. I readily acknowledge that the potential for law enforcement to make arrests because of our reenactment activities is low- but that potential does exist, and it is not paranoia to acknowledge this truth. It is true that we are not a threat to anybody and that the overwhelming vast majority of what we do is wholesome and not in violation of any law. However, I think it is undeniable that some activities commonly associated with reenacting are in violation of some sort of law. Not only that, as we have seen, you do not need to be technically breaking any law to be arrested and detained and have your equipment confiscated. If you get pulled over by a guy who construes a helmet as body armor and who freaks out over a swastika, you are going to be in trouble, and depending on the situation, you could be putting other reenactors at risk for problems as well.

A security culture is a sort of code of conduct or set of customs used by many different corporations, organizations and groups of all kinds to protect themselves from unwanted problems. The object of a security culture is to reduce risk, protect information, and prevent infiltration. Now I have every reason to believe that our little community is observed and monitored in some way and I am not saying that there is any way to prevent that. I don’t think it even matters. On the whole, we really have nothing to hide. However, I think it is time to really acknowledge that at any given reenactment, there are likely to be some activities that could be seen by any given police officer as cause for an arrest and that something like that could put into motion events that would make things more difficult for other reenactors also, even if no law has been broken. I think we need to start viewing some things that some reenactors may do as potentially illegal and I think we need to keep that in mind as we participate in this hobby. What I am talking about is a security culture for WWII reenacting in general.

Here are some things I would suggest we can do, in addition to the common sense guidelines above regarding traveling to events:

-If you can, password protect your phone. This is especially true with smart phones. If you happen to get pulled over and searched, you don’t want the cop to be able to quickly pull up texts or calls that may be from others traveling to the same event around the same time.

-I can imagine situations where people might want to claim they are not members of any particular group. Instead of an online roster with names and addresses I would suggest a list of period names and e-mail addresses.

-If you know that someone in the hobby has broken a law, or is breaking a law, particularly when it comes to weapons, do not talk about it. Don’t tell anybody about it and never post anything about it online. If you hear someone talking about it let them know that they should keep it to themselves. I’m not talking about general stuff, I’m talking about mentioning specific people and actions. Don’t brag about anything you have done that could possibly be construed as illegal. Suspect someone doesn’t have the permits they are supposed to or that they might have obtained something in a way that might be considered illegal? Don’t ask.

-Units should consider some kind of guidance for members who might find themselves dealing with the police. Maybe some of the LEOs on this list could chime in on that. You are not legally required to tell cops anything other than your name and address. On the one hand, if you refuse to tell them you are going to a reenactment then it might invoke suspicion. On the other hand, if you tell them you are going to a reenactment you are putting everyone else’s security at risk! Even answers to seemingly innocent questions could be used in a courtroom to show intent or provide evidence of your mindset or beliefs.

I will close with this. It’s hearsay and I didn’t see it myself so forgive me if I am off on this. Somebody posted a video on the FIG Facebook of reenactors marching with guns. Supposedly the guy captioned the video with something like “These are reenactors, there are thousands of them, they all have guns, if you try to come and take them we will use the guns and fight for the Second Amendment” or something like that. Thereby using every reenactor in that clip as some kind of political commentary. The guy who posted it later pulled it in response to widespread pressure but how many other people are doing stuff like that we don’t even know about? In this political climate I think we should get wise and smarten up. Not to encourage paranoia, but to feel more relaxed and secure.


With permission of the author.


Comments (2)

Patricia Patterson

February 8th, 2013 at 6:04 pm    

While I understand that this is informative, my opinion is simply that I will not attend any event in any state that has such a stance.

I mean armed or not, I will not contribute to any state that I know has so little regard for the Constitution, their own citizens and visitors. There are plenty of events in states where there are no worries about this.

Jim Barnes

February 8th, 2013 at 7:17 pm    


Quite understandable. The folks in the article have the misfortune of living in those areas. Their experiences offer a cautionary tale for us all.

Leave a reply

Name *

Mail *