How I Almost Became a Felon

By Max McGuire

Homemade Hand Gun
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.

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 SanityPolitic' 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

  • 22 thoughts on “How I Almost Became a Felon

    1. Nyles, it is cowards like you who are afraid to protect yourself and family that make it so easy for criminals. You are the one person that needs to be gunned down by a criminal. I would just love to be around to see it and cheer the criminal on. If your family is lucky, a criminal will break into your home and rid them of the snotty nose coward that you are. What you are doing on a MAN’s site is beyond me. You are a sorry excuse for a human being and as soon as your family is rid of you, the better.

    2. “If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.” – Plato

      We have plenty of fools in DC.

    3. By the way, I almost forgot to thank Max McGuire for this enlightening and entertaining article. I think you have expressed what all of us might have felt and experienced, my only suggestion to you is to move out of a state that does not respect your rights to be armed.

      Well done indeed!

    4. What I find so revolting is that while the educated are brainwashed in our institutions of higher learning, they are taught that the 2nd amendment and the right “Of the People” to be armed in the event a well organized militia may become necessary they find these ridiculous arguments of half truths filled with self serving interpretations that are concoctions of their own manipulated brains. So, the right of law abiding citizens to be armed is the scourge of our America but the same individuals will betray basic human rights and life in the pursuit of legalizing abortion at will. I ask you Nyles, how many Americans have died as a result of abortions that were convenience, forget about the total number and let’s focus just on those that were committed for convenience or “Choice” as you love to refer to this as a woman’s choice. Now compare this to the number of homicides, suicides or “Mishaps” perpetrated by those that responsibly carry guns under lawful permit or guidelines. Now deduct the number of lives that have been saved by those that carry guns and I suggest to you you have a net positive. Look I am not a champion of fact here this is just a loose argument that I believe would hold up to a fact check. So as nice as everyone here has been to you I am simply going to say this “Take your Che T shirt wearing, Pro Choice, Obama Voting butt to a forum that is more conducive to your liking”. You have in fact exercised your right to be heard and despite the incendiary tone and caustic nature of your argument, which obviously fell short,you have been treated with the utmost respect by most all here. Ever wonder why liberals are so angry? PEACE, LOVE and TROPHIES for ll who participated. III%

    5. Another definition of ‘well regulated’ used during that time in history is functioning properly.

      ‘Your timepiece is well regulated’

      Nyles Throne a nom de plume for Piers Morgan?

    6. Nyles Throne is obvious a brainwashed Communist who hasn’t studied the Constitution OR the Supreme Court’s interpretation.

      It’s about the Right to Self-Defense, period. Your beliefs would turn me into a potential defenseless victim of criminals, terrorists, or the mentally Ill.

      I truly believe you are an absolute idiot, or that you are absolutely evil.

      If you don’t believe in the Bill of Rights, GET THE HELL OUT OF MY COUNTRY YOU COMMUNIST BASTARD.

    7. People such as Nyles Thorne do not despise only guns, but all freedom. Because liberty will always be abused by some, the mindset of the Nyles Thornes of the world dictates that freedom must be usurped from all. They quote the Constitution and apply their clearly distorted spin to the words contained therein when it suits their purpose, and ignore it when it does not. Should the Supreme Court take a decision that refutes their “interpretation” of the Constitution, such as in this case, for example, D.C. v Heller, they develop a kind of selective Alzheimer’s, or dismiss the system of checks and balances as flawed and outdated. The bottom line is that Nyles Thorne and his ilk lack the spine necessary to live in a free society, and instead embrace existence in a kind of joyless, craven padded cell, micromanaged from cradle to grave by the loveless State. Mr. Thorne believes that all of us should have the weakness that he so desperately and passionately embraces forced upon all of us, so that, just as in our Nation’s hellish prisons, the more brutal and depraved among us can beat, rape, and kill their fellow citizens in a gun-free paradise. Mr. Thorne, I would not waste my time debating any issue with you, let alone the right to self-defense. You have clearly chosen which side you are on in the war being waged in our Nation against the liberty of all. Those who read your smug and toxic distortions can decide who speaks truthfully and in good faith, and who does not. I leave you to wallow in your cowardice, “bro.”

    8. The Constitution of the United States are the chains that bind and control the government, not the people. I do not need the second amendment to give me the right to defend myself; I was born with that right. The Bill of Rights are a prohibition against the government to interfere with our rights. This prohibition is why we can have this discussion and the government can not interfere with it. I thank God for the wisdom that He gave our forefathers. I thank God for the sacrifices of all that paid any price to keep these rights in place for me and my posterity.

    9. And the constitution says “arms” not firearms. Arms is anything from cannon and mortars of the time to personal arms. In fact I could purchase a tank or a fighter aircraft on the open market today if I could afford it, and the stupid BATFE should not be making anyone de-mil the damn thing.

    10. Nyles Thorne, please read, absorb and understand what Big Dog said. It will put to rest your misguided fears and opinions. When George Washington said he wanted “war, banished from the earth”, he was talking about attitudes, not guns. It’s sad that you think a conservative meeting their demise by a liberal would be funny. It is hilarious however, that a true liberal would even pick up a gun, given their uneducated fears. If that person were to take the time to learn what the real gun crime stats are, let a responsible gun owner take him or her to a gun range and show them how to safely and properly handle a firearm, they may realize that guns, in and of themselves are not dangerous. Only the person behind it determines whether the outcome will be good or bad. It might even start to change the anti-gun attitude. After all, at least in my experience, most liberals are just uneducated conservatives. Please take the time to learn facts before you just blast off, it’s not good for your intellectual persona.

    11. You are incorrect. The right to protect yourself isn’t an “American” right… it is a human right. The constitution doesn’t give us these rights, it simply enumerates rights that already exist naturally.

      Nyles, I am starting to think that you didn’t read my article at all. No where in it did I say I should have the right to carry implements of death anywhere in the country. This is simply an examination of the draconian gun laws in D.C. that make you a felon if you are caught in possession of harmless shooting components. I purchase firearms and ammunition lawfully for self-defense and sporting purposes. The byproduct of my sport is a brass case. They are completely harmless. It is ridiculous that if I was caught with these LEGAL components in D.C., I would be charged with a felony in the same class as “Performing Illegal Medical Procedures.”

      Including the founders’ duels was not meant to be the center of my argument, just an interesting lens in which we can look at the D.C. Law. Again, I wonder whether you retained anything from reading this because while I explicitly say “Not that I promote the legalization of duels… I don’t.” you have found a way to argue that I said the opposite.

    12. Mr. Nyles Thorne, you are terribly mistaken when you attempt to characterize the U.S. Constitution.
      Nowhere within the document is it necessary to give any explicit authority for the citizens to bear arms. The Second Amendment specifically states that that right “shall not be infringed,” thus limiting the federal government and reserving this right to the people. The Supreme Court reaffirmed that this is an individual right in the District of Columbia vs. Heller case.
      In addition, you need to understand that your interpretation of “well regulated” is flawed. The term you wrongly believe as being overseen by government through regulation, actually means well organized and in proper working order.
      Your review of Mr. McGuire’s article is inherently flawed due to these errors. Some would say laughable, but I will just state your interpretation is juvenile and misinformed.

    13. @Nyles Thorne:
      Well regulated means trained and disciplined and militia is every able bodied male (at that time) between certain ages. Our government still defines a majority of the male population as militia so they should be armed, correct?

      The fallacy lies in your assertion that the Second Amendment only applies to the militia. It does not. It only states that since we may need a militia, drawn from the people, the right of those people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

      The part you and many like you continue to ignore is where it says THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE…

      The people means all of us. The Constitution starts by stating We The People…

      Is it your contention that this means the militia? The reality is that everywhere the words The People are expressed they mean every citizen.

      Therefore, the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

      It would behoove you to read the words of the people who wrote it so you can see they intended for everyone to be able to keep and bear arms.

      If this applied only to the military (or the militia) then it would be contained in the part of the Constitution that applies to the military and the militia. Instead, it is in the Individual Bill of Rights.

      Education is the key…

    14. Gettysburg and Antietam, two highly visited Civil War Battlefields are close to DC. They both have relic shops which sell CW minie balls dug from the battlefield as souvenirs. According to this law if you buy one of these and get caught with it, you have comitted a crime. Another of the unintended consquences of a government law..we are ruled by fools.

    15. I know a person that was caught with a ball bearing and was sent to jail for having a component for a gun. Some of the laws that they have in that place are just plain stupid. Hoe can an empty shell case cause any trouble, I guess they figure that it might go off or something.

    16. “My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” -George Washington

      Mr. McGuire, I will start off my review of your horrid mischaracterization of our founding fathers’ sentiments with that quote from our first president. Hopefully, it will begin to jog your fetish for violence and its instruments from your head. I beseech you, Mr. McGuire, to show me where in our constitution it explicitly gives you the right to carry the implements of death, i.e. your beloved gun paraphernalia anywhere you please in the United States. For starters, here’s what the Second Amendment says:

      “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

      That’s correct, Mr. McGuire, “well regulated militia”. It disheartens me to see that rabid Tea Partiers like you foam at the mouth in your defense of your suposed inherent “American” right to carry weaponry, high powered firearms that is, anywhere at anytime but almost invariably fail to accept any form of decent regulation, let alone actually participate in a trained militia, the true right our founders and framers felt was essential to the balance of power in a nation. No sir, you feel, without providing any evidence, that the weight of the founders’ approval rests with you because, you say, they regularly killed each other over disputes. Surely you don’t genuinely desire a return to time of needless violence and death over mere honor? Maybe you think you do, but I’m sure that would change if you saw you heroes, say, Ted Cruz or Glenn Beck meet their demise at the hand of some liberal; hilarious. Regardless, your argument is tantamount to an endorsement of regularized homicide.

      Please, Mr. McGuire, next time you feel the need to pontificate on your “rights” and the the injustices of our already lax gun regulations, try to present a more coherent argument, or at least one that actually cites the rights you feel you are entitled to under the constitution.

      I’m not even going to get into the statistics and stories of gun violence and the terror its ravaged in our country over the last few decades. Nor will I lecture you about the N.R.A., its corporate agenda or its irrational and ceaseless call for evermore guns in America. Just remember, please, Mr. McGuire, that your understanding of our Bill of Rights is “violation[s] of your liberty,” is at this time juvenile and uninformed.

      Please, come at me bro.

    17. So, I know anyone of any age can buy black powder firearms. Are those illegal also? cause you say a lead ball, I therefore believe the powder must be illegal there but what if its just the black powder revolver? Special laws apply to this I guess?

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