It is illegal to possess live ammunition in Washington D.C. without a proper permit. Mark Witaschek stood accused of possessing a single shotgun shell that had misfired and 25 muzzle loading bullets. A dud and hunks of primerless powderless lead do not actually qualify as live ammo, but a conviction was handed down early this week nonetheless.
The court proceedings were just as ridiculous as the initial charges. Those tasked with enforcing the law showed little to no knowledge of firearms and ammunition.
If you are interested in the ridiculous violation of the Constitution that took place to get Mr. Witaschek arrested in the first place, click here
Before we continue, let’s review what ammunition actually is: Modern ammunition has a bullet/slug/shot wedged into a case. Inside that case is gunpowder. At the back of the case is a primer that when struck by a firing pin ignites the powder and pushes the projectile rapidly down the barrel of the gun. A modern round is a self-contained unit.
Muzzle loading is quite different. There are variations, but it pretty much works like this: Powder is poured down the barrel of a gun. Then wading is packed in and a projectile is shoved in on top of that. Either a flintlock or primer ignites the powder and the gun fires. A muzzle-loading bullet is nothing but a chunk of lead, sometimes encased in copper. It is just an inert piece of metal and not the same thing as a modern round.
Armed with this knowledge, we move onto the court case. Prosecutors had to prove that a misfired shotgun shell and 25 muzzle-loading bullet were in fact live ammo and banned by DC’s draconian laws.
First up, the shot gun shell:
Judge Morin (Moron?) held up the shell with a puzzled look. He then shook it, and claimed he couldn’t hear any gunpowder rattling around inside of it. He asked prosecutors to open the shell to see if there was any powder inside.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Saba said that the government wanted to open the shell but that, “It is dangerous to do outside a lab.”
Prosecutors and police left the courtroom to try and find a lab, but were unable to locate one that was open. The judge decided that he would dismiss the shotgun shell as evidence.
Had he known a little bit more about guns and ammo, he could have just looked at the primer. If it had been punched by a firing pin, it would be a good indicator that it was in fact a dud. Score one for Witaschek.
Next up, the 25 muzzle loading bullets:The judge initially had a problem with them because antique replica firearms are not banned in DC. He asked prosecutors how if the guns were not illegal, the ammo could be. The lawyers took another break and came back with this gem: They said that some muzzle-loading rifles could be converted to fire modern rim-fire ammunition.
Whitaschek did not have this type of gun, nor did he possess any rim-fire ammo, but the explanation was good enough for the judge.
“I’m persuaded these are bullets. They look like bullets. They are hollow point. They are not musket balls,” said Morin of the 25 muzzle-loading bullets.
And with that, Whitaschek was convicted for having a couple dozen pieces of inert lead. He was officially found guilty of “attempted possession of unlawful ammunition.”
“None of these people know anything about gun issues, including the judge,” said Witaschek after his conviction.