Her latest piece describes the plight of former Army Specialist Adam Meckler, who was arrested at a District VFW post in 2011 for being in possession of ‘unregistered ammunition.’
Three cities, D.C., Chicago, New York and two states Illinois and Massachusetts have laws on the books that criminalize the mere possession of ammo (even if one is not carrying a firearm at the time of the arrest).
For his “crime” the 9-year Army veteran, who served 15-months in Iraq and 15-months in Afghanistan, was thrown in jail. Following his arrest, distressed and eager to put the misunderstanding behind him, he copped a plea deal with prosecutors – a decision he now regrets.
How it went down
On Sept. 19, 2011, Spc. Meckler went to drop his medial records off at the VFW located inside the Veterans Affairs D.C. regional office, several blocks away from the White House.
For the sake of convenience, the Army medic placed his paperwork in his first-aid backpack. Although the primary purpose of the pack was medical equipment and supplies, he occasionally used it to carry his military-issued firearms – the Beretta M9 and a Springfield XDM – to the shooting range.
When Spc. Meckler walked up to security at the Eye Street building and put his pack on the conveyor belt, he never thought, for an instant, that he would have trouble going through. But things quickly changed.
“The guard looking at the monitor screen had this crazy look on his face,” Spc. Meckler told Ms. Miller in a recent interview. The guard was reacting to loose rounds of 9mm ammunition in the pack.
The guards immediately cuffed Spc. Meckler, causing a big commotion in the process.
“They yelled for the people in line behind me at security to back out of the building,” said the Kentucky native. “As people were coming off the elevator, they were telling them to get back on. They shut down the lobby. It was like I had explosives or something in my bag.”
Confused by the situation, Spc. Meckler began to speculate as to what incited the melee.
“I was thinking, what is in my bag? I thought, there is no way it’s a gun, all my guns are locked up. I’d made sure there were no knives in the bag,” he told Ms. Miller.
When the guards revealed to him that they found ammo, Spc. Meckler didn’t bristle.
“I have plenty of bags with random ammo in them. It never crossed my mind to look for them before going into D.C.,” he explained.
When the police showed up, they inquired if Spc. Meckler knew that carrying ammo in the District was against the law. He confessed that he did not. An officer then began to Mirandize the combat vet.
Spc. Meckler interjected, still reeling from what had just happened, “Am I really going to be arrested for this?” The officer affirmed that he was.
Reflecting on the Past
Looking back on the incident, Spc. Meckler cannot make sense of it. All the fuss over a few rounds of ammo did not make any sense to this soldier.
Talking about his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he told Ms. Miller, “I can’t tell you how many people we PUCed — we put in flexi cuffs — and took them out of the village because we found explosives on them, but not for having some rounds on them.”
He added that his unit raided villages in Afghanistan and detained people with massive weapons caches that contained anti-aircraft rounds and piles of RPG rounds.
However, in the nation’s capital, several rounds of 9mm (officials say they found a total of 14 rounds in his pack) is enough to put one behind bars, even if that individual spent 9 years putting his life on the line for his country.
“I understand that it was my fault that the rounds were in the bag. I understand the lengths the security officers went to make sure that I was not a threat,” he told Ms. Miller. “What I don’t understand is that, after everyone completely understood the situation that I had accidentally put myself into, I was still arrested.”
Ms. Miller plans to do a Part 2 of this story, detailing how Spc. Meckler was jailed and prosecuted for ‘unregistered ammunition.’ Stay tuned for updates and click here to read Ms. Miller’s full version of Part 1.
Also, here is the District’s law on ‘unregistered ammunition.’
Unlawful Possession of Ammunition (UA): It is illegal to possess ammunition in the District of Columbia unless the person is: (1) a licensed dealer, (2) a federal or city law enforcement officer acting within scope of duties, or (3) holder of a valid registration certificate of same gauge and caliber as ammunition in possession. It is also illegal to possess, sell or transfer any “large capacity ammunition feeding device.” A person guilty of this charge can be sentenced to a maximum fine of $1000 and/or up to a year imprisonment. D.C. Criminal Code 7-2506.01.
(Pictures courtesy of Washington Times)