Curious Questions about Gun Possession Arrest in DC

The headline says a man with a gun was trying to enter the Capitol during Obama’s speech. But reading the article indicates there’s a little more to the story that shows he actually was not a threat at all.

A man with a shotgun was arrested on Wednesday night by U.S. Capitol Police while attempting to gain access to Capitol grounds as President Barack Obama began to deliver his speech to a joint session on healthcare.

Capitol Police stopped Joshua Bowman, 28, of Falls Church, Va., at approximately 8 p.m. on Wednesday night several blocks away from the Capitol as he made a “failed attempt to gain access to [a Capitol] barricade,” a spokeswoman said.

After consenting to an administrative search of his vehicle, a shotgun in its case with ammunition was found in the vehicle’s trunk. He was transported to Capitol Police headquarters where he was processed and charged with carrying an unregistered firearm and possessing unregistered ammunition.

For those of you who don’t know, these barricades are erected in the middle of some streets that, according to a map, look like they should be open to traffic. They are blocks from the actual Capitol building because they are posted around the Congressional office buildings that surround the Capitol.

It seems to me that someone up to no good would not keep his shotgun cased in the trunk and consent to a search. If there were no nefarious reasons for him to be there, then I do hope that he fights like hell because it sounds as though he was traveling in a manner legal by FOPA standards. Anyone who has driven in DC can tell you how easy it is to get lost in that city and end up near monuments and buildings you never expected to be near. If this man was following the law but ended up lost, he should not be prosecuted for this unregistered bullshit.

8 thoughts on “Curious Questions about Gun Possession Arrest in DC”

  1. The problem is according to radio news I heard on this yesterday he was asking permission to park inside the barricaded area. If so, FOPA’86 protections wouldn’t apply since DC was his destination and you can’t possess an unregistered firearm in the District as a result. Doesn’t have to make sense and the laws are ridiculous but that is what they currently are.

    I suspect the charges will likely be dropped later. A cased firearm transported according to Federal requirements, I agree, does not indicate nefarious intent.

    This is why I NEVER travel through DC with a firearm even I’m heading through to somewhere in Maryland or Virginia. Safe to take the longer drive around the Beltway and avoid the risk entirely.

  2. Interesting. So if I want to go pick up my friend, who lives in DC, to go shooting, I would be breaking the law even though my gun is being transported unloaded and locked up. Because my destination is my friends house first. I hadn’t thought about that, but now I know not to do that.

  3. W. Richards,

    Ammunition isn’t banned but you have to have a registration certificate on file with the MPD in order to possess a specific caliber of ammunition for a given firearm. It isn’t registered per so but associated with the registration of firearm intended to use it.

    Otherwise, you get hit the “unregistered ammuntiion” charge if you lack a registration certificate for a given firearm. It’s a bullshit charge designed to allow prosecutors to stack them on during the post-76 handgun ban period. Since most, if not all, of the guns encountered by police would be held by criminals, it was a way to convict them of more things or have room to plea bargain stuff down.

    Since the fellow in question it appears was trying to stop in the District, he would have been required to notify the MPD immediately of his possession of a firearm and take steps to register it. Since that it not possible in the District without a long and multi-step process that can take weeks, he is in defacto violation of the law and they start laying on the charges.

    Essentially, the “unregistered ammuntion” charge is gravy on the possession charge.

    The only exception to this is he could demonstrate that he was enroute to a shooting activity inside or outside the District. I would strongly advise (and I am not a lawyer) anyone from outside the District transporting firearms through the District in accordance with Federal transport requirements to have a shooting club membership card on them, some kind of information on a public shooting range they are headed, a MapQuest route to Quantico or NRA and so on. So if they do arrest and charge you as above you have laid the groundwork for an affirmative defense under DC law (7-2502.01(C)(3))

  4. I live about 5 blocks from the point in question so I am a bit knowledgeable about rules.

    The charges will likely be dropped. Sounds like the guy just got mixed up.

    However, when traveling through DC, you need to have everything locked in the trunk and keep on moving. Saying he wanted to “park” was bad.

    @LFS-If you want to go shooting and pick up a friend in DC, then yes, you would be violating the law.

    Unregistered ammunition: You can only own ammo in DC if you have a gun registered in the same gauge. So, if you don’t have a gun registered, your ammo is “unregistered”. If you do have a gun registered, you need to have your triplicate form with you even if you are just carrying ammo.

    Silly ain’t it. When I go dove hunting, I never wear camo when loading up my gun in the car.

    The rules are set up to make it as easy as possible for the cops to find a reason to arrest you.

  5. I don’t know Josh, but from what it sounds like, he was trying to park in the employee lot behind the Cannon building.

    Amongst other organizations that have offices within a block of there are the NRA and the Congressional Sportsmans Foundation. There are also about 4 or 5 restaurants and the Capital Hill Club (Republican) and the DNC Club (Democrat) both of which have restaurants and bars.

    Seems entirely likely that this guy was meeting someone for dinner, couldn’t find parking but saw a HUGE empty parking lot and decided to try and park there.

    Yes, the unregistered ammo thing is BS. I believe it is 5 years for each round. But if he gets a decent attorney, he will probably be able to get out of this.

    DC doesn’t want a supreme court fight over possession of a shotgun that was broken down and cased.

  6. Patrick, yes that is what I meant to say. In fact, I remember catching that and correcting it earlier. How very odd.

    I figure there is more to this, and I didn’t have time to search around for more information since I’m trying to entertain my mom and visit with her this weekend. So if there’s more that comes out, especially from folks there in DC with local coverage, do share.

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