A successful Washington, D.C. businessman with a spotless criminal record is preparing to go to trial for possessing a single, misfired and inoperable shotgun shell in his own home.
When Mark Witaschek isn’t working as a financial adviser, he enjoys hunting. Unfortunately for him, he also lives in a city with gun control laws so draconian, possessing an empty shell casing is punishable by one-year incarceration and a $1,000 fine, according to The Washington Times.
His firearms are kept at his sister’s house in Virginia. The shotgun shell he kept at home as a keepsake — something to remind him of an incident that occurred during a hunting trip.
A report made by a vindictive ex-wife that Witaschek kept firearms in his home led to two searches of his home. The first yielded live ammunition — a felony subject to the same two-year sentence as for possession of an illegal firearm. But it was conducted without a warrant and thrown out by the judge.
The Washington Metropolitan Police was smarter the second time out, and arrested him on the basis of the misfired shotgun shell and a pack of sabots — sleeves having no propellant that are wrapped over a projectile before it’s rammed into a muzzleloading gun.
Several plea offers have been made by the prosecutor and rejected by Witaschek. He rightfully feels as though he’s done nothing wrong. So he and his lawyers are preparing for a costly trial — costly to him and costly to the taxpayers.
The Washington Times notes an equally outrageous set of circumstances connected to the case:
A year ago this month, the attorney general for the District of Columbia let NBC News anchor David Gregory off scot-free for possession of a “high capacity” magazine because doing so “would not promote public safety.”
Now, Irvin Nathan refuses to use that same prosecutorial discretion for an average citizen who violated a bizarre technicality that makes empty casings and shells a crime as serious as having an illegal firearm.
“Since the night my home was invaded and family terrorized by a militarized D.C. police force, I am more afraid of what government is doing than I am of any of the people I encountered when I spent the night in jail,” Witaschek told The Times. “The Second Amendment was meant to guarantee individuals the right to protect themselves against government — as much as against private bad guys and gangs.”
The problem with “gotcha” gun control laws like those in Washington, is that rather than focusing on the criminal, they’re designed to make criminals out of law abiding citizens like Witaschek. That’s not justice — it’s stupidity.