Thursday, March 27, 2014

Possession of Muzzleloading Bullets A Crime in D.C.?

These are just chunks of lead and copper -- no propellant, no primer.  From March 26, 2014 Washington Times:
In a surprising twist at the end of a long trial, a District of Columbia judge found Mark Witaschek guilty of “attempted possession of unlawful ammunition” for antique replica muzzleloader bullets.

Judge Robert Morin sentenced Mr. Witaschek to time served, a $50 fine and required him to enroll with the Metropolitan Police Department’s firearm offenders’ registry within 48 hours.
There are so many things wrong here: attempted possession?  Did he or didn't he?  And if this is what he possessed, there is something seriously wrong here.  The ATF's claim is that it is possible to convert some non-black powder firearms to fire these bullets, and therefore this is ammunition.  Heck, a steel ball bearing is "ammunition" by this standard.

Why would any rational person live in D.C.?


  1. This is as bad as the "attempted attempted rape" case we read about in Criminal Law class in Law School.

    That was, IIRC, a case from Mississippi, a Southern State, and during the Jim Crow 20's. I note that D.C. was a slave-holding area ante bellum, and was segregated thanks to President Wilson, so legal horse **** like this in D.C. is nothing new, but you'd think that with modern judges this wouldn't happen anymore.

  2. Note that ATF did not claim "these are bullets for DC's purposes"; the DC prosecutor's team simply found a list from the ATF of muzzleloaders that "could be converted" to fire modern ammunition and waved it around as if it was somehow relevant.

    ATF has many problems, but they do not appear to have actually had anything directly to do with this travesty.

    D.C. Code § 7-2501.01, however, defines such muzzleloaders as "antique firearms", explicitly excludes them from the category "firearms", and bans posession of bullets as part of the ammunition ban which applies only to firearms, not antique firearms.

    One complication is that the DC definition applies only to pre-1898 muzzleloaders and replicas; by their definitions a modern-styled muzzle-loader is a regulated firearm.

    Problem is, of course, since he had no firearm, the bullets were not for any specific arm...

    DC's code needs to be fixed. By Congress.

  3. "Why would any rational person live in D.C.?"

    It's not completely clear that any rational person actually lives there. But, surely at least 3-5% of the DC population is rational. It's also not clear from the reporting that Mr. Witaschek lived there - perhaps he only had an office there.

    It seems somewhat ironic that by far the biggest abuser of 2nd Amendment rights [thus far -- NY, CT, and CA are trying to catch up] is the U.S. Government. It is illegal to carry a firearm onto most U.S. government property, for example, including Post Offices, a fact that I find very inconvenient.

  4. What's bizarre is that by prosecuting this ridiculous case, they've made the appeal very much a slam dunk.