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New Jersey –-( The weekend of October 11-13, 2013 I attended the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. As I prepared to leave my home in New Jersey early that Friday morning, I began the process of cleaning out the car and loading up my packed bags. With my suitcase, garment bag, and laptop case safely secured, I reversed out of my driveway and began my three and a half hour journey to the nation’s capital. As I reached the end of my street, a thought suddenly popped into my head, causing me to pull into a nearby gas station. I turned off the ignition, and walked around to the trunk of the car. Lo and behold, my fear became a reality . . .

Tucked under my suitcase and laptop bag sat my target-shooting range bag.

When I opened the duffel bag, I found a number of harmless items: a staple gun, safety glasses, hearing protection, paper targets, and binoculars (among other general supplies). While my cursory glances seemed to satisfy my fears, I decided to dump the bag out just to make sure. The worries were justified.

Sitting on the backseat, along with the previously mentioned harmless supplies, were two items: an empty 9mm brass case and a spent .223 cartridge.

Most rational people would see this as a non-issue. Despite my active imagination, I still haven’t come up with how these two corroded, brass cylinders could pose an immediate threat to anyone. Nevertheless, if I was caught bringing these cases into the District of Columbia, I would be charged with the equivalent of a Class D Felony — a one-year minimum prison sentence, hefty fine, the forfeiture of my 2nd Amendment rights, disenfranchisement of my voting rights, an automatic disqualification for serving on a jury and enjoying 7th, and 8th Amendment rights, and not to mention wearing scarlet in every future job interview. Those are the unfortunate consequences associated with this law that doesn’t differentiate between the possession of reloading supplies like primers and brass cases and the possession of armor piercing incendiary ammunition.

Washington DC law defines “ammunition” in terms of its components (projectile, case, propellant, etc) but also includes the blanket definition of any “devices or materials designed, redesigned, or intended for use in a firearm or destructive device.”

This is obviously a huge problem not just when it comes to firearms, but many other political issues as well. Supposedly “common sense” bills are being drafted by people with minimal working experience with the issues they’re trying to address. Career academics can propose any number of economic reforms, but even the most celebrated Ph.Ds lack the experience and knowledge associated with running a small business. Lobbyists can certainly make moral arguments about current inequity towards people with preexisting conditions, but one can only imagine what Obamacare would look like if the medical professionals now threatened with bankruptcy had a say in drafting the legislation.

Others believe just the opposite, that oppressive legislation is drafted not by ignoramuses, but rather by savvy lobbyists in an attempt to fundamentally transform public policy. It could be argued, for example, that medical services bankruptcies are actually deliberate progress towards more socialized medicine, not just unforeseen side-effects.

The D.C. gun laws, as written, make potential felons out of law abiding citizens. I could walk out of Home Depot with a galvanized pipe and few would raise an eyebrow about my purchase. But a quick look at pictures of homemade pipe bombs and zip-guns, and all of a sudden my home plumbing purchase looks a lot more suspicious. An artist creating sculptures out of Pewter seems innocent enough, unless he or she creates a lead sphere, defined by the law as a “projectile.” The statute also takes lawful objects like rectangular boxes and a springs and shifts how the public perceives them. All of a sudden household items become components of ‘high capacity magazines.’

You can call me paranoid for stopping and double checking whether I had any spent brass in my bag. But realize this: possession of a cylindrical piece of brass or steel in the District of Columbia is a felony in the same class of crimes like incest, vehicular manslaughter, distribution of narcotics, aggravated assault, and even performing illegal medical procedures. While these crimes each describe committing an illegal act, D.C. gun laws preemptively punish people based on a capacity to commit crime.

I don’t mean any harm to anyone, and Washington’s gun laws didn’t make the city necessarily safer on my arrival. At the very least, it was an annoyance. At most, the law represents a violation of my liberty. As long as citizens look at these laws and believe the former over the latter, unconstitutional laws like this one will be much more common.

I’ll close with this. In 1804, former-Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton made fun of Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President, at a dinner party. When Hamilton refused to apologize, Burr shot him dead. In 1777, Lachlan McIntosh shot and killed Button Gwinnet, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, because he called him a “scoundrel and lying rascal.” Today, possession of a lead ball alone in the nation’s capital is a felony. Not that I promote the legalization of duels…I don’t. Just remember that while Washington D.C. outlaws ammunition components today, back in the day our country’s founders, politicians, and cabinet members regularly shot one another over common insults and disputes. Let that sink in.

About SanityPolitics’ Max Mcguire;
Max McGuire is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Political Science at Villanova University. He graduated from Boston College, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Arabic Studies. Follow him on Twitter @SanityPolitics

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  1. Any time a politico advances a law saying it’s common sense, you can be assured it is not. Especially with regard to gun laws.

  2. I remember when AP and tracer ammo was legal, even in Commiefornia. Lo, How The Mighty Have Fallen!

  3. ok, here’s my shot at ID:

    .300 Blackout
    250 Savage (maybe .22-250?)

  4. McGuires hit upon a fundamental goal of our opposition.

    Laws are no longer written to ensure public safety.Rather, the statute book has become a social engineering tool.It’s easy to believe that gun control laws are written to exclusively disarm us.That’s only a small portion of the picture.

    The end goal is to alter our culture from one where High School students brought shotguns to school,into one where the word “gun” is banned by hate speech.The intellectuals and lobbyists in DC don’t care that you own an AR15 today: they’re counting on your kids’ support ten years from now.By passing gun control laws, they set up a feedback loop where more restrictions reduce exposure,which leads to more controls and more crime, and so on until you get a culture totally hostile to guns.

    Meanwhile, as our schools and entertainers fill the next generation with anti gun swill we jump for joy at striking down one or two laws here and there.Lets quit playing checkers and start playing Chess.

    • I recall the scene from “300” where Leonidas goes through the Spartan rite of passage of killing a wolf. (Some historians suggest that in fact the rite involved killing a slave.) I foresee a day when a rite of passage for we the few free thinkers will be law breaking. I’ll take my kid deer hunting, put the $26 license fee in the church collection plate instead of the state coffers, and then after celebrating the kill, I’ll tell my kid I didn’t get a license. “Son we don’t have the state’s endorsement of what we just did, does that make it wrong?”

      Recently, a local county passed an ordinance that “no one may climb on, or repel from, or jump off of any natural or man made object in any county park.” Some kids had been repelling from a bridge in the park and this is what they sought to avoid. But there was no exception for things like the jungle gym in the park or the many boulders in the park which little boys, by law of nature, must climb on and jump off of. I took my boys to the park and we jumped off the boulders together.

      Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.

      • That has got to be the dumbest law ever. Do they arrest children (I can attest girls are equally bound by nature to haul themselves up and off rocks) at gunpoint and shoot their dogs for violating it? And I hope the law does ban “repelling,” leaving kids free to rappel. Great skill to have!

    • “By passing gun control laws, they set up a feedback loop where more restrictions reduce exposure.”

      Exactly. Look at how we turn on ourselves when it comes to topics like open carry.

      • That’s one of the reasons why I bend over backwards NOT to turn on each other. The NRA, Gottlieb, FPC, open carry movement, etc. are not perfect. If the end goals are freedom and justice, that’s good enough for me.

  5. Supposedly “common sense” bills are being drafted by people with minimal working experience with common sense.

  6. So what would happen if people tossed spent brass into D.C. from outside of D.C. (aside from littering, which is why it would probably be bad idea but…)

    I suppose it would be a terrible thing to send boxes of spent brass to random (or not so random) D.C. address. I certainly would never advocate such actions.

    • I’d be careful about mailing spent brass to anyone who didn’t ask you to. That could easily be construed as a threat of violence by a prosecutor, at which point, D.C.’s ridiculous gun laws would be the least of your worries.

    • After arriving in Cozumel for a vacation, I found a dozen pieces of brass in my suitcase. 9mm and 223. I had fun planting it in conspicuous locations around town.
      I think that would be an awesome display of civil disobedience in D.C.

  7. In MA we have the same “common sense” laws about ammo and components. We even classify pepper spray and Mace as “ammunition”, although that is allegedly being repealed this fall.

    All to make felons out of regular people and to make people afraid to own guns.

    • “All to make felons out of regular people and to make people afraid to own guns.”

      This!! Brilliant – especially the last part. WIth so many laws on the books, it’s entirely possible to be 100% legal in your town, but drive through another municipality and across a state line to a nearby gun range and be 100% illegal. I have hear this exact statement from a neighbor who wanted an AR pattern rifle but decided against it because he could not be sure he wouldn’t get arrested at some point down the road. I tried to walk him through it but in the end, he was simply too afraid to own a gun.

      – Mission accomplished as far as the gun grabbers are concerned.

    • How are these “spent casing” laws not slam dunk victories for even the most inept 2A lawyers to challenge?

      • They probably would be except for one factor:

        Money. You can spend $15,000 to have your day in court & MAYBE win.

        Or we can instead charge you with this misdemeanor infraction, 30 days in jail, and a $1000 fine.
        Law get’s upheld, because nobody challenges it.

        • 30 days in jail, losing your $XX,000/year job in the process (costing you many many thousands over your lifetime)…

          $15,000 sounds like a bargain.

    • I like Jim Wallace’s take on pepper spray “MA is the only State that has outlawed a condiment.”

  8. The whole idea of pistol dueling makes me laugh. I watched part of Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” the other day and I just don’t understand how people did it. I suppose they didn’t have our modern perspective on how to use firearms. After all, they somehow found honor in a regimented march straight into the enemy line of fire. Must be the same logic the Jihadis have when they strap themselves with hurt jackets.

    What surprises me is that the founders were so keen on pistol dueling. If you are going to fight for honor that should be done with your fists or with a blade. But then I also read that the founding fathers idolized Sparta, which is eerie when you think about how the Spartans really conducted themselves with their Helots, femoral intercourse, gender segregation, infanticide and all that. Those guys would get a kick out of modern life.

    • Dueling with fists and/or blade requires an advantage of strength and/or skill. Even small, untrained men have honor to defend. This is why pistol dueling was so attractive – it required nothing but demonstrable bravery and the blessing of God (or luck depending on your outlook). This is why even if nobody was shot in due course of the duel, honor was still satisfied. You had proven you metal by facing death and taking your chances with God’s favor. Your character could no longer be disputed.

      • Another tactic was to “delope” — to fire into the ground or up in the air. You proved that you weren’t a coward by standing up against your opponent and looking death in the eye (accepting the chance that he could try to kill you), not necessarily by killing someone.

      • Sometimes I have a fleeting thought that if we brought back dueling, today’s society would be a more civilized place. But I digress progress.

    • Also, without rifling, pistol accuracy was a crapshoot. There was every chance you could walk up there, both take a shot, miss, and walk away, honor satisfied but skin unscathed.

      • Dueling pistols represented the zenith of quality & technology in the flintlock era. Roller bearing frizzen spring, waterproof pan, hammer safety, hair trigger (single set), superb balance & sometimes a nefarious feature called `blind rifling’; that is, the barrel was rifled to within an inch or so of the muzzle. The antagonist’s second who inspected the pistols before the final command might miss the fact that their provider had a potentially lethal advantage.

        In America’s most notorious duel between Aaron Burr & Alexander Hamilton, the former was unaware of the single set trigger in the Wogdon set that Hamilton brought, and the latter just might have set the trigger on his gun whence it discharged before he had drawn down on his opponent. Burr heard the shot whistle overhead and instinctively fired, fatally wounding Hamilton. One story, anyway.

  9. Never visit D.C. without knowing the law and wearing your David Gregory mask. Heavy sentences for common, harmless items are nothing more than catch-all laws–traps for the careless, or, rather, people who haven’t given enough thought to the spiderweb of laws we live under. Max McGuire knew the laws and gave them enough thought but still almost put himself at risk. When checking your car and gear it’s not hard to miss a spent casing.
    Right now there are thousands of innocent people in NY who are unknowingly committing felonies because they don’t know how far the tentacles of the SAFE act reach. Our LEOs, for the most part, have said they won’t enforce them. But there are those who are just itching to catch someone with 8 rounds in a 10 round mag. Or 7 rounds in a pre-ban 14 round mag which was legal last year. A well meaning, otherwise law-abiding citizen can almost always be prosecuted on a meaningless technicality that was written by someone completely ignorant of the topic.

    • Anyone who hasn’t had a “how did that casing get in there?” moment isn’t spending enough time at the range.

    • “Heavy sentences for common, harmless items are nothing more than catch-all laws–traps for the careless, or, rather, people who haven’t given enough” to the Vince Gray for Mayor reelection, health, welfare, and morale campaign fund. You gotta be wired in that town to do anything. Anything.

  10. I had a bad moment when traveling one time overseas via air. I arrived at my destination and emptied out my carry on bag and discovered a single live .22LR round. This was pre 9/11/2001, but that bag was carried on and off 3 different airplanes, x-rayed 3 times and cleared customs in the country I had arrived in. But for a bit of luck, I could have been looking at decades of prison time. Lesson learned? NEVER EVER EVER use my range bag as luggage for traveling, evem though it is the perfect size and has all sorts of handy pockets. Imagine traveling to Buttholeistan and upon arriving they discover ammo in your bag, jacket pocket, binoculars case, etc. Just one round, and your in VERY deep poo.

    • I got caught by TSA post 9-11 with a single live .38 spl round in my purse. All that happened to me was a letter from TSA, but I was definitely putting out some stress sweat when the x-ray revealed my crime. This was in TX. I’ve been told that if I had done this in NY I would’ve been frogmarched off to jail. I don’t even want to think of what would’ve happened if I’d brought it into a foreign country and gotten caught.

  11. We go from dueling on the front lawn of the White House to defend ones honor to being arrested for having an empty piece of brass.

    We go from a nation of warriors to a nation of wimps. This is why nations fall into dark ages. A nation of over grown children expecting their mommy and daddy government to care, nurture and protect them, even from themselves.

    Obama care anyone?

  12. FEAR!! This is how a police state operates. It preys on the citizens it roundly claims to be protecting, and it all stems from the lie that they’re insuring the safety of the public.

    Who possibly could be against having more safety?

    • “To protect and serve.” *

      * We are mandated to protect and serve the government at all times. In certain cases, a few rogue outliers among us may choose to protect and serve the people at our own discression but are under no obligation to do so.

  13. Now, how the hell is this supposed to work, “the prohibition of reloading supplies?” Bullets, powder, primers, cases definitely fall under that but what about shotguns? You can put a lot of crap into a 12 ga shotgun shell and fire it to include rock salt, medications, paperclips, staples, rice, and this list goes on. Maybe some good hearted devil’s advocate out there should mention this to the law makers and get some of this more common stuff banned so the general public feels the sting and realizes what crap gun control is.

    • “medications”….. Who thinks of that???

      I guess I will from now on. If only you knew how many funny thoughts that spawned in my evil mind.

      Viagra riot control anyone? It might make it “hard” to keep rioting.

  14. Two years ago at Christmas, as a little joke, I gave my daughter, then 36, a $20 blowgun. Guess what is illegal, along with slingshots, in the masshole of the world.

  15. Culture wars are always to the death. That’s why the rules in DC and other places are so draconian and try to turn honest Americans into felons at the same time that they turn illegal aliens and gangsters into heroes. Culture wars are always to the death.

  16. I have seen it reported, and I thought it was here, that the DC police chief wrote a letter stating that officers should NOT arrest anyone for spent shell casings. Further, any law prohibiting live ammo would be facially unconstitutional under Heller–otherwise you could keep a firearm in your home, but not have any ammunition. Because it would be a violation of law to buy ammo in Virginia or Maryland (there are no stores in DC) and bring it home to your abode. Or transport your gun and ammo from your home to a shooting range in another state. So if you are as paranoid as Max, then put a lock on your range bag and tell the police they’ll need a warrant to search it.

  17. Washington DC has upped the Ante in The War on the American People by its government. I’m pretty sure the place will get burned to the ground when SHTF.

  18. DC has no legal guns on the street and yet there’s a shooting nearly every night. They have “Taxation without representation” on their license plates, but the rest of America is wise enough not to grant that plantation on the Potomac statehood, with the attendant ability to further screw up the national political scene.

    Max McGuire was lucky he remembered – he’s not nearly important enough to skate if he was caught.

    And BTW, the DC duelling field was actually located in Bladensburg, Maryland. I rode by it today.

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