This is one of the more idiotic things I’ve read about in a while. This “zero tolerance” thing is really pissing me off.


Joshua Phelps had been at a reenactment with his Civil War costume, including a musket last week. He threw the uniform and equipment into his truck and forgot about it. Tuesday a security guard at the Pine Bush High School saw it and called police.

Phelps was sitting in study hall when the security guard told him to go to the assistant principal. When he was told they saw the rifle he wasn’t concerned, thinking they would understand it was part of his costume.

But it didn’t happen that way. Town of Crawford Police were called and Phelps was cuffed and charged with a misdemeanor charge of criminal possession of a weapon.

Phelps used the costume when taking part of the reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorville which was staged by the 124th New York State Volunteers. The reenactors say they are models of the unit that came from Orange County and fought in the Civil War. High school students were recruited to take part in the reenactors club. Phelps’ mother questions why the students are given fake guns if they can be arrested for having them.

The way I’m reading this is: high school students are recruited in this town to participate in a Civil War reenactment that is part of the town’s history. They are given a fake musket as part of their costume. Said student forgets the stuff is in the trunk of his car and happens to be on school property when a security guard notices.

Town police arrest him and charge him with criminal possession of a weapon (no specifics on whether it matters that the weapon is a replica). What the hell? If it’s criminal possession, why is the acting troupe handing them out? If they’re not illegal (since they’re replicas), why is this kid being charged with gun possession?

Can we please, PLEASE inject a little common sense into this? The musket is non-operational. It’s a replica that has never been operational and cannot be made operational. There’s no reason that a musket as part of a costume shouldn’t be something you can just transport without having to adhere to ridiculous laws about actual guns.

4 Responses to “Civil War Reenactor Student Arrested For Possession of Fake Gun”
  1. Tom says:

    “Replica” doesn’t mean “toy” or “fake”, at least not in the reenactment community – it means “modern reproduction of”. I have a “replica” Brown Bess that throws a big cloud of smoke, a 5′ cone of fire, and an ounce of lead with serious force (if no accuracy at all) about 100 yards. Plus it has a bayonet lug – so I figure I’m an assault weapon owner. It is externally identical to a 176x Land Pattern musket except for the federally-mandated (?) identification number and maker’s mark at the base of the barrel. I’ve been hassled by the police before for carrying it in 4th of July parades, and certainly would never transport it onto school property uninvited.

    http://6nc.org/photos/musket_fire.htm

    But yeah, it sounds like a mistake, and the judge should just impose a slap on the wrist.

  2. Anne Haight says:

    So noted, Tom. ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t know you were involved with the reenactment community.

    In that case, there obviously needs to be some legal clarification regarding the status of replicas as firearms (they certainly sound like real guns to me), and whether a high school student would be allowed to possess one (if he’s under 18). It’s unclear from the article whether he was arrested because he brought it onto school property, or if he would have been arrested anywhere in town with it.

  3. Sether says:

    As a Revolutionary War re-enactor, I too have had to become aware of laws and regulations concerning reproduction firearms. Canada, for example, treats any replica of an antique as the antique itself – meaning that Brown Bess muskets are not considered to be actual firearms, and are not subject to regulations as such. But if you take one out of the US, you’d better declare it with US customs, or they won’t let you take it back in.
    In the US, state laws differ – Vermont don’t give a hoot about anything, neither does New Hampshire, but both new York and Massachusetts consider muzzle-loading black powder pistols to be handguns that are illegal to transport or conceal while replicas of muzzle-loading long guns made before 1888 are not legally firearms there either.

    To address this specific situation, several things obviously went wrong.
    1: The re-enacting organization and community should always make sure that its members are informed about relevant laws and regulations.
    2: It’s the individual’s legal responsibility in the end, of course – kid should’ve known better, and even if it’s legal to own and carry around, it doesn’t mean people won’t flip out if you take it onto school property.
    3: What was he doing, leaving his kit in the truck?? If he’d taken his stuff home and cleaned it properly, there would have been no problem. HA!

    BTW Tom, I think that federally a firearm has to have TWO of the key features in order to be an assault weapon. Not sure what all of them are, but they include flash OR sound suppressors, full automatic capability, bayonet hardware, and some others I can’t think of right now. So with just the bayonet lug, so long as you don’t put a silencer on it, your “2nd model” Bess should be fine ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Emillie says:

    hey, im a high school student who is a civil war re-enactor as well. but the thing is with me, my high school has a club called the Living History Club (LHC) and we go around all over the place re-enacting the civil war. we are in new york and we travel as far as virginia to go to a re-enactment. though we are not infantry(using musketts and other hand-held guns such as described in the article) we are artillery, which means we shoot real cannons. not using real cannon balls, just black gunpowder. we built and own 3 fully operating guns: one 12lb field howitzer, one 12lb prairie howitzer, and one 12lb mountain howitzer. our heaviest gun, the field howitzer, weighs about 2800 pounds. we are the 10th NYSV Heavy Artillery.
    but anyway, this kids should NOT have been storing his gun in his truck, it should have been kept at home safe. along with his uniform as well. i mean,i could understand if it was in there because he was getting ready to go to an event/reenactment soon thereafter, but still. it just isnt good gun care and ownership.

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