27 March 2012

Six-Gun Justice & RGA safety regulations

Tintype, circa 1870's, courtesy of Thomas Wiederhold; a graphic example of what not to do!

As a performer, you are ultimately responsible for the safety of the viewing audience, the safety of your fellow cast members, and your own safety. The event managers and their crew are responsible for creating and maintaining safe conditions in the environment in which you will be performing, but it is your right and your responsibility to insure the safest of conditions and to double check the setup and guarantee the safety of all involved!
It is each individuals' responsibility to be familiar with, and adhere to, all federal, state, and local laws established in areas you perform or choose to wear a weapon, whether in wardrobe or not. This includes the usage and handling thereof, and the transportation of any and all weapons.
Absolutely no live ammunition will be allowed at any performance location, whether private or sanctioned, or on the person of any performer during the entirety of an event, or while in wardrobe.
Nothing is done without the clearance and approval of the assigned event Safety Officer (SO) at each and every performance. Each team should have a designated SO for all performances as well.
Pyrotechnics will be conducted by licensed and insured experts only, with the approval of event location and assigned event SOs. This includes fireworks, exploding squibs & gerbils, and home-made improvised explosives or fireworks. If you need to make an explosion, a double-barreled shotgun with full loads is the simplest and safest way to go. Once again all federal, state, and local ordinances must be adhered to.
No performer should handle, wear, or use a weapon unless they are familiar with the weapon and know how to load, unload, and/or clean said weapon. Nobody is going to be asked to field-strip the weapon, but, upon request, they must display the capabilities of insuring the weapon is not loaded to the satisfaction of the SO. No one under the age of sixteen can be shot in a show.
Individuals who are between the ages of sixteen and eighteen can enter the Junior Reenactor membership program. This program will help introduce sixteen to eighteen year olds to weapons training for gunfight reenactments. The following requirements are necessary for certification:
* Must always be accompanied by parent or legal guardian (proof required), until the age of eighteen, and parent or guardian must be a member of the RGA in good standing.
* Must be an RGA child member in good standing.
* Must have age verified by documentation (birth certificate, drivers license, etc.).
* Must pay the balance of adult membership for the permit.
* Must attend two competitions and perform a minimum of four shows.
* Must be approved/certified by SO at each competition (four shows), and display their proficiency with the weapon they will be allowed to carry at the two consecutive competitions "during performances only" without a failure rating by SO. Junior performers may be asked questions on gun safety and RGA safety rules orally at any time during the events.
* Must be recommended by three non-related members. Permit is available for download on the website.
Once all above requirements are fulfilled, the certified individual will be allowed to carry a gun until the age of eighteen (when he or she will be eligible for regular membership), while accompanied by their parent or legal guardian at all private shows, events, and competitions. State and federal laws take precedence when the Junior Reenactor is carrying a gun, and it is the responsibility of the guardian to guaranty said laws are followed (see Rule Number Two). Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the RGA. A regular membership card will be issued upon completion when the permit is submitted to the Director.
Blanks and dummy loads with live primers are not to be carried or worn casually by any performer, either in their pockets or in the loops of a cartridge belt. All loaded blanks and performance ammunition will be carried in an ammo box, preferably metal, for the entire team by a designated team SO or armorer. These containers should always be available for event SO inspection. The containers should only be opened during test fire or splatter tests in the designated loading/unloading area with permission of the SO, or during that teams performance window.
Note: Performance window is ten minutes before showtime and/or until released from the performance or loading area by SO.
All blanks used should adhere to the established safety distances of fifteen feet for pistol and twenty-five feet for shotguns. No crimped brass will be allowed in performances. All dropped guns that make contact during a fall, or guns that come to rest on the ground when someone takes a shot reaction, are to be considered “dead" guns. All guns that may come into play off a dead player must stay in holster, and that person should fall to the opposite side of the holster. Or if the gun is drawn, the gun must come to rest, un-cocked, on the chest or belly of the wounded person.
Dead guns cannot be used for the remainder of the event until they can be cleared for use by the event SO.
*While firing blanks at a fellow performer, the weapon should be pointed towards, but not directly at, a performer and off towards backstage.
* No loaded weapon should ever be pointed at another performer within five feet.
* When firing from sets towards another player who is located toward the audience, thirty feet must be between the viewing audience and the weapon being fired.
Note: If any performer is careless in the use of a weapon, especially firing towards the audience for a laugh, or any intentional purpose to draw attention to his or herself, the judges have the right and obligation to stop the show immediately and discuss disqualification of said performer/team for safety purposes from the competition.
* Safety distances are fifteen feet for pistols and twenty-five feet for shotguns, 180 degrees from the end of the barrel. No firing next to individuals standing, kneeling or lying on the ground within the approved safety distances.
Note: the splatter from a gun can cover a large area depending on the type of blank being fired, so a little more room is better than not enough.

Rule Number Ten: At no time should a gun be handled by any audience member. Explain it as a safety rule and an insurance matter. They will have to understand.
* You may pull a weapon out to show those who may be curious. You may display your weapon by holding it against your chest, pointing upwards, or holding it up out to the side, pointing towards the sky, for a photo.
* Never cock your weapon for a photo and, if you point a gun towards a camera, it should be a minimum of twenty feet away. Never hold a gun on an audience member for a photo.

Note: All re-enactors should use a leather hammer thong or string of leather over the hammer of pistols in a holster. We understand that this is not considered authentic, but this is a safety issue when dealing with the public. There are too many stupid people and curious kids out there.

Rule Number Eleven: A safety perimeter should be established for any and all performances. A stage, dance floor, streets on a parade route, or an arena can all be designated and used as a perimeter. When large crowds, and especially small children, are present, ropes and/or safety tape should be used. All performers should be conscious of the audience and their location to insure the safety of all. Stopping a show to correct a safety issue can be done by a SO, a judge, or a performer by yelling out an established word like “safety”. This will let everyone know that something is not right, and all actors should freeze until the situation can be rectified. Also, a disclaimer should be used to start any and all performances.
As an example: "Ladies and gentlemen, the blanks our performers are using can be quite loud, and are filled with a powerful powder charge that can burn, maim, and/or even kill at close range. This is why we ask that you remain in your present location until the show has been declared over and all guns have been picked up. All of you with children present, please insure that they are under your control at all times. We only ask this to insure their safety and the safety of our performers." A simple disclaimer like this can protect us against lawsuits and will help make audience members aware of our safety consciousness.

Rule Number Twelve Any and all weapons & equipment (whips, knives, swords, breakable bottles, boards, etc.) should be serviceable and safe in all manners. Whipsnappers should be changed regularly, and any knife used in a fight scene or worn by anyone falling down should have a safe, rounded edge. Knives that are considered tools may have an edge, but should never be used in a show where falls may occur for that character.

Rule Number Thirteen Fires are subject to all federal, state, and local ordinances. Fires are allowed only with permits, (if required), owner/manager permission, and the approval of event manager/coordinator and SO. You must have a 5 gal bucket of water at hand and a small fire extinguisher for emergencies. You must return the area to its original condition when breaking down. Fires must be completely extinguished before leaving the area. All fire pits will be covered and/or buried, and please save the sod so it can be replaced. Fires should be attended at all times. Large audiences or high traffic areas should use a rope as a perimeter around areas with fires, to keep folks from knocking something over or getting burned.

Rule Number Fourteen This should already be an accepted practice of each and every group, but here it is in writing so there will be no misunderstandings: at no time during any performance (private functions, events, or competitions) should any performer be under the influence of any drug, illegal or legal, including alcohol. After you have completed your performance and all guns have been secured for the evening, then and only then should adults of legal age decide to imbibe in accordance with local laws and regulations. Individuals who are carrying weapons and appear to be inebriated will be asked to leave the area immediately. Upon the review of the board, individuals who have a problem abiding by the safety rules related to alcohol and drugs can lose the right to membership permanently, and will only be considered for re-application after presenting documentation of rehabilitation. This is serious, folks!

Rules & guidelines for all animals & livestock: The owners are ultimately responsible for all animals brought to an RGA event.
*Horses must have a current negative Coggins test; dogs must have current state-regulated vaccinations, etc. The SO may ask for papers proving both/either at his or her discretion. Failure to provide documentation may result in the removal of the animal(s) in question.
*All animals, whether ridden, led, or driven, must not be skittish around gunfire during any and all performances. Animals must be cleared by the SO prior to the event, and the intended use of the animal must be clearly detailed. Safety checks for animals can be accomplished during splatter tests to prove that the animal is conditioned to gunfire and thereby not a safety threat.
*Unattended animals shall be tied, secured, or enclosed to protect visitors. The SO has the final say on a case-by-case basis. Their requests are to be adhered to or removal of animal and/or owner may be requested for non-compliance.

Note: The Safety Officer, State Rep, and/or Event Manager each have authority to request the removal of any animal brought on location, if the animal’s behavior is deemed as disruptive or dangerous in any way to the general public and/or performers/performances (ie. biting, kicking, barking, growling, etc.). They also have the authority to request an owner to modify their own behavior with said animal in terms of abuse or dangerous activity; cruelty to animals, dangerous use of animals, or being in an unauthorized location will not be tolerated! Failure to comply could result in the removal of animal and/or owner if requested.

Final note:
These rules have been established to reduce the level of possibility of an accident. As professionals, we must adhere to maintaining a safe environment for all reenactors and any and all of the viewing audience. If your individual groups feel it necessary to expand these rules, or implement rules that are more stringent for your own performances, please feel free to do so. If a safety concern is discovered that you feel needs to be reviewed or considered, provide an example in writing and submit it to your state director. The RGA board will give it thorough consideration and, if it is something that they feel is necessary, it will be added to the RGA safety rules and guidelines for all groups and individual members to adhere to.
Any violation of the safety rules in a competition will result in point deductions, and a verbal reprimand will be issued to the performing group or individual involved. Any obvious neglect of the RGA safety rules and guidelines, or obvious continued violations by the same group or individual, will result in a review by the RGA board and membership may be in jeopardy. A continued lack of responsibility will not be tolerated, and an individual and/or group can be removed from the role upon the board's request. If asked for a reference from RGA, any and all groups who have shown to have an unsafe performance record will be designated a danger to the public.
It is important that all groups and individual members be able to and have prepared a safety demonstration that can be done at any place and at any time. Safety is and should be our main concern above anything else, and never must 'the show go on' if safety could be a concern, period! Once any necessary corrections have been put into place to ensure the safety of all participants and the general public, then, by all means, let the show go on!

Play safe and have fun!

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