When it comes to the surreal realm of American gun­ control politics, the adage “truth is stranger than fiction” really applies. Just when you think that you’ve heard it all, something even more utterly outrageous pops into the news headlines.

In the nation’s capital, (which has for a long time been the epicenter of the absurd), a law-­abiding gun collector, and reportedly a gentle man, has been dragged through the wringer of a justice system gone totally berserk.

Flashback: A few years ago, while deer hunting in Virginia, Mark Witaschek fired his shotgun at a running deer. The shotgun shell, apparently a dud with a bad primer, never discharged when the firing pin struck the primer.

Witaschek watched awestruck as the deer ran into a tree and put out its own lights forever. Wanting to remember the moment, Witaschek saved the unspent shotgun shell as a keepsake souvenir. He kept the shotgun shell on his Washington, D.C. desk along with some other mementos.

Word got out about the shotgun shell. D.C. police arrested Witaschek for violating a local ordinance prohibiting the possession of ammunition in the nation’s capital. Not only did the man do jail time, the D.C. cops ransacked his Virginia domicile. They found no guns but they did “uncover” and confiscate a bunch of sabot bullets for a muzzleloader.

Mind you, he possessed no guns illegally. He was brought to trial and the judge found him guilty of “attempted possession of unlawful ammunition.” A fine was levied, and Witaschek was required to pay a visit to the D.C. police station, where he was fingerprinted, posed for a mugshot and required to make an entry in the official Gun Offender’s Registry.

Washington Times reporter Emily Miller, who covered the story, intimated that the trial, though largely a farce, was conducted by the principals as though Witaschek were being tried for murder.

Portions of the transcript of the trial reads like the script of a Laurel and Hardy movie. Between the questions asked by the judge and the court cross examination by the D.C. prosecuting attorney, it is obvious that neither His Honor or Ms. Juris Prudence, Esquire had a clue about the difference between a shotgun and a rifle or a primitive firearm and a conventional gun.

The judge even tried to shake the shotgun shell, to see if he could hear any gunpowder rattling around in there. Ms. Juris Prudence asked the defendant, in an accusatory tone, whether he would be willing to load the unspent shotgun shell into his “rifle” and point it at somebody while pulling the trigger!

In some ways this is laughable, but in other ways it most assuredly is not. Especially when you remind yourself that this judicial theatre of the absurd played out in the solemn and venerated place where our nation’s laws are enacted and adjudicated.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co­host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News­ Talk Network (WVOM­FM 103.9, WQVM­FM 101.3) and former information of icer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e­mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”


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