The federal government wants to know what kind and how much ammunition you may possess and if you don’t tell them, you could be going to jail. That is the scenario Mark Witaschek is facing today as he goes to court after being served a search warrant on July 7, 2012 at his home for “firearms and ammunition…gun cleaning equipment, holsters, bullet holders and ammunition receipts.” The District of Columbia police search was the result of Witaschek’s estranged wife tattle-telling to the authorities and the search came up near empty.
Upon entering the home, police subdued Witaschek and his girlfriend putting them in handcuffs while confining the four children in the home. Witaschek’s 16 year old son was in the shower and police “used a battering ram to bash down the bathroom door and pull him out of the shower, naked. The police put all the children together in a room, while we were handcuffed upstairs. I could hear them crying, not knowing what was happening,” according to Witaschek.
Much to the authorities’ surprise, no firearms were found in the home. Instead, according to the police report on the search they found “one live round of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition,” which was an inoperable shell that misfired during a hunt years earlier that Witaschek had kept as a souvenir. “One handgun holster” was found, which is perfectly legal. One expended round of .270 caliber ammunition,” which was a spent brass casing. The police uncovered one box of Knight bullets for reloading. These are actually not for reloading, but are used in antique-replica, single-shot, muzzle-loading rifles.
D.C. law requires residents to register every firearm with the police, and only registered gun owners can possess ammunition, which includes spent shells and casings. The maximum penalty for violating these laws is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
During a separate search of Witaschek’s home, for which he allowed police in without a warrant, they found one box of Winchester .40 caliber ammunition, one legal gun-cleaning kit and a Civil War-era Colt antique revolver that Witaschek kept on his desk. The police seized the Colt even though antique firearms are legal and do not have to be registered.
Mr. Witaschek is a gun owner and an avid hunter. However, he stores his firearms at the home of his sister, Sylvia Witaschek, in suburban Arlington, Va.
Two weeks after the June, 2012 raid, D.C. police investigators went to his sister’s house — unaccompanied by Virginia police and without a warrant — and asked to “view” the firearms, according to a police report. She refused. The next day, the D.C. police returned to her house with the Arlington County police and served her with a criminal subpoena even though Mr. Witsachek or his firearms were never reported to have been involved in the commission of a crime.
Mr. Witaschek voluntarily went to the police station to fulfill a warrant for his arrest on Aug. 24, 2012 at 5:30 a.m. to turn himself in, but was not transferred to central booking until 11:30 a.m., at which time he was told it was too late to be arraigned that day. He spent the night in jail and was released the next day at 10 a.m.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier reserves such harsh tactics for ordinary citizens. When NBC News anchor David Gregory violated the gun-registration law last year by wielding an illegal 30-round magazine on live television, he was not arrested. Mr. Nathan also gave Mr. Gregory a pass, writing that prosecuting him “would not promote public safety,” and he has not shown how public safety is served by the harassment of Witaschek, his family, girlfriend and sister.