Replica bullets, dud shell earn weapons conviction for former Washington man

Replica bullets and a dud shotgun shell got a man convicted of weapons charges in the nation's capital, in a case gun rights activists say shows how overzealous authorities are trampling the Second Amendment.

On Friday, just two days after his conviction of attempted possession of unlawful ammunition, Mark Witaschek went to a Washington, D.C., police station to register in the city's Gun Offenders Registry. The act was part of a sentence meted out after Witaschek lost his two-year legal battle that began when police searched his home and found an inert shotgun shell, a spent shell casing and a box of muzzle-loader bullets.

“I’m completely outraged by it,” Witaschek, who moved to Virginia after he was arrested following the 2012 search, told the Washington Times. “This is just a continuation of the nightmare. Just to sit there. I could not believe it.”

Witaschek was also handed a $50 fine, punishments he fought as a matter of principle.

"This case is yet another example of D.C. run amok over citizens’ Constitutional rights," the National Association for Gun Rights said in a statement. "It’s no wonder anyone with the option and half a brain is fleeing D.C. for areas where self-defense is a virtue, and not criminalized."

The search was in response to a complaint from his estranged ex-wife. The evidence presented against Witaschek included a 12-gauge shell that failed to fire while Witaschek was hunting years ago, a spent .270 Winchester shell casing, and a box of .45 caliber Knight muzzleloader bullets with plastic sabots. The muzzleloader bullets were for use in only antique or replica firearms.

Witaschek is an avid hunter, but says he never kept his guns in Washington D.C., because he know of the city's strict gun laws.

Witaschek’s attorney, Howard X. McEachern, vowed to appeal the verdict.

“Clearly the judge thought that this was overkill — the sentence reflects how he felt about the prosecution of this case,” he said when asked for his opinion of the verdict.

The judge never ruled on the shotgun shell itself, which was what the prosecution’s case was built around.

Witaschek’s treatment was in sharp contrast to that given NBC news personality David Gregory, who went on air with a 30-round AR-15 magazine during a broadcast of Meet the Press. Merely possessing such an accessory is illegal in the city, but the same prosecutor’s office that charged Witaschek never pursued charges against the journalist.