|GUN PROPS AND LAWS THAT GOVERN THEIR USAGE IN FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTION|
New York State Introduction:
The federal government has regulations on who, what and how imitation firearms can be made and dealt.
New York State has legislation that subjects the possessor of any blank-firing non-gun, imitation or look-a-like firearm, to fines and imprisonment. It also has laws that prohibit anyone other then the person to whom it is registered to, to possess an actual firearm for whatever reason. This along with liability for injury or death due to misuse of the un-approved gun props, would expose a production and its principals to untold financial and legal penalties.
This is why gun props must only be acquired from an approved Theatrical Gun Dealer licensed by the jurisdiction where the production will take place.
First step in using gun props in film/television production is to acquire all necessary production permits for the jurisdiction you wish to film in. The Director of the Motion Picture / TV Bureau of the county can help with acquiring and processing all necessary paperwork. This entails informing the film bureau that firearm props will be used during production. You will then be provided with a list of NYS qualified suppliers of gun props for the jurisdiction. These suppliers will be licensed as Theatrical Gun Dealers by the New York Division of State Police, as well as being licensed federally for such work. That Theatrical dealer will also posses a U.S. Dept. of Commerce Wavier for "prop guns". A retail gun dealer is not allowed to "rent" his inventory for film use, nor can a private citizen use their personally owned firearms in a film production. An outside firearm prop company (not state licensed) can not "bring in" firearms without going through the state licensed Theatrical Gun Dealer. NOTE: New York City approved firearms are not legal outside the city. Do not attempt to bring them out of the city. Their laws on possession and usage are illegal outside the city. If you get caught, you will do jail time.
Next step is to contact one of the suppliers on that list to see if the type or style of weapon prop is in their inventory or will they need to acquire the makes and models needed. It is important to sit down with the supplier a few months in advance and discuss the scenes where firearms will be needed. They have experience in the use and handling of guns as well as the licenses and their help in scene set-up and camera angles will prove invaluable in areas involving expediency and safety. With enough notice, most requirements can be met by the supplier. Security deposits, lease agreements, and instructional for the props use and safe storage between shootings will be handled at this time. Most importantly, is the purchase of enough blank-ammunition for all eventualities, (these are pyrotechnic devices under NYS law and require a state pyrotechnicians license to use and possess. NOTE: NYC licensed pyrotechnicians are not licensed to work outside the city and need a state license also. Remember; you will need a state licensed GUN HANDLER to take possession and responsibility for "live" firearms (serial numbered) for your production company. Your supplier will have information on personnel available for hire. "Fake" firearms (those that do not fire (die-cast, rubber, etc.) also referred to as "static") do not require the GUN HANDLER. They still need designated oversight by the production company in the form of an assigned production company employee (not a "hired" crew member.)
It is now when you will need to acquire all the required insurance coverage that each township and the gun prop supplier needs in order for your production to even be considered. Several things to remember; movie "blanks" are classified as pyrotechnic devices and all the Islands township will require very specific dollar amounts in the liability coverage, insurance coverage for those actors who will be "shot", actors dont like to get shot even by "blank" guns, including them in all discussions with the supplier will help in alleviating any fears they may have. Contact the town attorneys office for their requirements. Several Long Island Townships issue Film Permits and Pyrotechnic Special Effects Permits and these need to be procured also.
Next step is for the production company to notify the townships Fire Marshal. Copies of all permits received, copies of all personal identifications of the production crew members with responsible for gun prop security, along with CERTIFICATES OF INSURANCE for all the required coverage will need to be provided to the supplier. Several law enforcement agencies will require official notification of the make, model, status (real gun or "fake" gun) and if so marked, the serial numbers of the guns and this information must be provided by the gun prop supplier directly. The law enforcement agency will then issue approval which must be received before the gun props can be leased. The agency will be notified that the contracts have been fulfilled once all props have been returned upon completion of the production. The reason for such a thorough administrative process is that before such props can be used, each one must be approved by the law enforcement agency as being in a condition that it can not chamber or fire live ammunition. This is for your safety and that of your actors and crew, as well as the citizens of Long Island.
SAFETY TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER ALL!
It is imperative that before you approach the prop supplier, you decide if the weapons need to be non-firing, functional blank-firing or full flash blank-firing. Things to remember when deciding are; the more complicated the gun, the more money it will cost. 30 full auto Uzis capable of shooting 4 foot flames from the muzzle will cost you considerably more then non-function Uzi props made from rubber. If only one weapon fires at any one time during any one scene, then by all means cut your costs with 29 rubber guns. If all the Detectives have guns in their holsters, and only one revolver has to fire, "fakes" can fill the bill for the holstered guns and only one "live" gun is needed for the gun shot scene. "Fakes" come in several styles of construction: metal, plastic and rubber. Depending on if the actor has to throw or fall on the prop, or if it will appear in a close-up will determine what type to use.
On-Set Gun Handler:
The last consideration is whether the firearm props youve chosen, will require an On-Set Gun Handler to safeguard the props, handle and load as well as unload between "takes". It is this person who takes direction from your Property Master as to what and when the gun props are to appear in a scene.
***THE GUN HANDLER IS NOT SUBORDINATE TO THE PROPERTY MASTER***
The Gun Handlers word is law when it involves the use of gun props. If he determines that the props usage in the scene will place the actors and/or the production crew in any danger whatsoever, it is his responsibility to terminate the scene and re-retain the gun prop until such time that safeguards are in place to assure the safety of the scene. Federal and state law requires that any prop made from a live firearm, machine gun, shotgun or rifle be under direct supervision and guardianship of a licensed Gun Handler at all times. This would add to your production costs the wage, insurance and sundry costs of the Gun Handler, but would reduce your security and storage problems. Gun Handlers must be licensed by the jurisdiction within which the production will take place.
Production Company Gun Prop Custodian:
This is the designated member of the production company crew who will be in full time charge of the "fake" gun props during the entire period of the lease. Because the "fake" guns exactly resemble a "live" firearm, great care in the oversight of the props must be taken to prevent unauthorized and/or illegal usage. On-Set horseplay or a crew member taking one home just to show his wife or girlfriend can and will break laws. If a Police officer becomes somehow involved, someone may also get shot. The risks are not worth the law suits, so make sure that the crew member you so designate is responsible enough for the job. His identification information will need to be provided to the gun prop supplier at the time of pick up of the props.
Special Effects Technicians and Movie Pyrotechnicians:
All MOVIE GUN SERVICES LLC EMPLOYEES ARE LICENSED AS NYS GUN HANDLERS & PYROTECHNICIANS
FEDERAL LAWS CONCERNING BLANKED "LIVE" FIREARMS
It is paramount that the production company performs a criminal background check on their actors prior to production. The vast majority of today's actors have a checkered background and quite a few have debilitating felonies and misdemeanors which preclude them from ever touching a "live" firearm. Certification of a clean record is just some of the necessary documentation required by the Gun Wrangler prior to arriving on-set with converted firearms.
Here are just some of the federally recognized categories of individuals who cannot touch a firearm;
These categories include any person --
Do not rely on their Union to certify crew members; it is up to you. It will pay in the long run!
TITLE 15--COMMERCE AND TRADE
(a) Acts prohibited
It shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive any toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm unless such firearm contains, or has affixed to it, a marking approved by the Secretary of Commerce, as provided in subsection (b) of this section.
(b) Distinctive marking or device; exception; waiver; adjustments and changes
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) or (3), each toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm shall have as an integral part, permanently affixed, a blaze orange plug inserted in the barrel of such toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm. Such plug shall be recessed no more than 6 millimeters from the muzzle end of the barrel of such firearm.
(c) ``Look-alike firearm'' defined
For purposes of this section, the term ``look-alike firearm'' means any imitation of any original firearm which was manufactured, designed, and produced since 1898, including and limited to toy guns, water guns, replica nonguns, and air-soft guns firing nonmetallic projectiles. Such term does not include any look-alike, nonfiring, collector replica of an antique firearm developed prior to 1898, or traditional B-B, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of air pressure.
(d) Study and report
The Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics is authorized and directed to conduct a study of the criminal misuse of toy, look-alike and imitation firearms, including studying police reports of such incidences and shall report on such incidences relative to marked and unmarked firearms.
(e) Technical evaluation of marking systems
(f) Effective date
(g) Preemption of State or local laws or ordinances; exceptions
(Pub. L. 100-615, Sec. 4, Nov. 5, 1988, 102 Stat. 3190.)
PART 1150—MARKING OF TOY, LOOK-ALIKE AND IMITATION FIREARMS