Pennsylvanians—Stay Out of New Jersey With Your Toy Gun!

New Jersey gun regulations require permits for Airsoft pistols.
New Jersey gun regulations require permits for Airsoft pistols.

An actor faces ten years in prison for using an airsoft pellet gun as a prop in a movie he was filming last November.

New Jersey has one of the toughest gun control laws in the country. Even a bb gun is treated like a real weapon under the Graves Act, a bill named after former State Senator and Paterson mayor Frank Graves.

Carlo Goias, whose stage name is Carlo Bellario, was charged under a New Jersey gun law that requires permits for firearms, including the Airsoft gun Goias used while filming a car chase scene. The Airsoft gun Goias had doesn’t even fire metal pellets — it uses compressed air to fire nonlethal plastic pellets. It’s a prop, not a threat.

However, New Jersey defines all non-powder guns as firearms, which require a permit to carry them, which includes the Airsoft pistol in Goias’ possession.

Goias, who has a prior felony conviction, was trying to turn his life around when he responded to a Facebook posting to play a gangster role in a film called “Vendetta Games.” It’s a low budget production by a filmmaker named Andre Joseph and his Epyx Productions.

Carlo got the part. No pay, just an acting credit. Along with more than he bargained for.

In the scene that led to Goias’ troubles, he was riding through a neighborhood with the pellet gun out the window. Some nervous residents called the police who arrested Goias for possessing a firearm without a license and took him off to jail, where he spent the next four days in the Middlesex County jail while friends and family raised the $10,000 bail.

“I was shooting a movie — I wasn’t committing a crime intentionally,” Goias recently told The Associated Press. “Robert De Niro doesn’t ask Marty Scorsese is if he has gun permits. We’re actors. That’s for the production company to worry about.”

“I pretended to shoot out the window; they were going to dub in the sound later,” Goias said. No shots were actually fired in the filming. “We get back, and within a couple of minutes we’re surrounded by cop cars.”

Goias was handcuffed, arrested and charged with weapons possession under New Jersey’s strict gun laws, which say any weapon that fires projectile – even if it is just a pellet – is a firearm.

Some state lawmakers say the case highlights the need for New Jersey to change its overly-restrictive gun laws. State lawmakers are pushing legislation that would give prosecutor’s more discretion in filing charges under the statute.

This is just the latest episode in New Jersey’s history of penalizing law abiding citizens for weapons related infractions.

Case in point: In October 2013, Shaneen Allen, a 27-year-old mother of two who was employed as a security guard in Pennsylvania and had a valid Pennsylvania concealed carry permit, was charged with felony gun possession because she had a firearm in her car and New Jersey did not accept as valid a Pennsylvania gun permit. Further, the law required weapons to be stored unloaded and locked in the trunk. She spent 40 days in jail before making bail and faced three years in prison. Fortunately for Allen, Governor Chris Christie granted her a full pardon in April 2015.

Will Gov. Christie do the same for Goias?