How insane are New Jersey’s gun laws? Governor Chris Christie has had to issue two general pardons in order to stop or reverse gross miscarriages of justice over nonsensical prosecutions. Will Christie go for the hat trick? Carlo Goias had better hope so, before he does a ten-year stretch in prison because he used a pellet gun while making a film in the Garden State:
Carlo Goias, whose stage name is Carlo Bellario, was charged under New Jersey’s strict gun law. It requires permits for firearms, including the airsoft gun Goias used while filming a car chase scene.
Goias rejected a plea deal offer Tuesday that could have sent him to jail for less than a year. He faces up to a decade behind bars because of prior felony convictions that prosecutors say include theft and burglary.
“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.”
Some state lawmakers say the case highlights the need for New Jersey to change its gun laws.
Some say? It’s true that Goias hasn’t exactly been an angel, and with his record, no state would allow him to possess firearms. However, in other states, no one would have accused Goias of doing so. A pellet gun does not use gunpowder, so it’s not a firearm — except in New Jersey. The Airsoft gun Goias had doesn’t even fire metal pellets — it fires nonlethal plastic pellets under power of compressed air. It’s a prop, not a threat.
More to the point, it would be clear to anyone except a New Jersey prosecutor that there was not only no criminal intent, there was no danger of a crime at all. Goias was acting in a low-budget film, not participating in a heist. The production startled some in the neighborhood, who misunderstood what was happening and called the police. Instead of recognizing this as a misunderstanding, the police arrested Goias, who then got held in jail for four days while his friends and family tried to raise enough money to meet the $10,000 bail demand.
Four days in jail. For using a non-lethal air-powered pellet gun. While making a movie. And the case is hardly over — the district attorney plans on prosecuting Goias for felony possession of a firearm to send him back to prison. Goias, who at least had been trying to become a productive member of society, might end up stuck in the criminal cycle for the rest of his life because he took a part in a low-budget movie.
Clearly, no film production company of any size should ever do business in New Jersey. And just as clearly, the state’s legislature should take action to put an end to these insane prosecutions of people who have no intent to commit any crime at all. In the meantime, though, Christie should get his pardon pen at the ready to put an end to this injustice, too — if he hasn’t packed it up along with his presidential aspirations.