Lieutenant Augustine Kim has an understandable desire to preserve his own safety since he was wounded on duty in the Afghanistan war. Moreover, the South Carolina native has always been an avid collector of guns but, when he was deployed overseas, wisely made the decision to move his gun collection from his otherwise vacant home in Charleston (where they could be stolen or otherwise inadvertently accessed) to his parents' home in New Jersey.
Upon returning home from his tour of duty, Kim wanted to take the highly valuable collection (worth several thousand dollars) back home from New Jersey to South Carolina, and set out back home in his car with the weapons secured in accordance with every relevant federal law. However, on his way, he stopped at Washington, DC's Walter Reed Memorial Hospital for a doctor's appointment. If he'd known what would follow, he probably would have rescheduled at a hospital in a different state.
What followed? Emily Miller at the Washington Times explains.
After his appointment, Kim set out back home. Unfortunately, he got lost on the way, and was pulled over by Washington, DC police, who accused him of driving with a suspended drivers' license (this wasn't actually the case -- a clerical error was responsible for the mix-up). However, because of the nature of the offense, the police officer involved called for backup, told Kim he'd have to go to the police station to sort it out, and asked permission to search Kim's vehicle. Kim, apparently unaware of the absurdly restrictive firearms laws in Washington, agreed, assuming that his painstaking attempts to transport the guns correctly would get them passed over in short order.
He was wrong.
Among the guns Kim was carrying was a Colt Carbine AR15 rifle - a weapon the District of Columbia considers to be an "assault weapon" and has banned.
Kim tried to explain that he was only trying to transport the weapon home to his home state of South Carolina, where possession of it is legal. However, the police told him that because he had stopped at Walter Reed, he was guilty of owning the gun at a place other than his home, and was thus in violation of DC law. He was arrested on four felony counts -- charges that could conceivably have resulted in as much as 20 years in prison --- and was allegedly mistreated during his time in DC jail.
Kim must have figured out he was dealing with an irrational legal system, because he engaged the services of Richard Gardiner, the very attorney who had represented Dick Heller, a firearms owner whose case -- District of Columbia v. Heller -- made it all the way to the Supreme Court and was the first case in which the Court began to hint that it would acknowledge a fundamental right to bear firearms. Gardiner negotiated the charges against Kim down to one misdemeanor charge, which was summarily dismissed in May 2011 after Kim kept out of legal trouble in the district for 9 months. The entire legal mess essentially went away.
However, for Kim, the story hasn't ended yet. Why? Because the District of Columbia still hasn't returned his guns. Rather, the DC legal system has hemmed and hawed and delayed in every way it can to avoid returning the firearms to their rightful owner, who has had all the charges against him dismissed.
“This is legalized theft,” Gardiner told the Times. “The charges were dropped, and they don’t give you your property back?”
Whether this is simply an epic case of bureaucratic oversight or an instance of willful refusal on the part of the district to do its job, the fact of the matter is that it is inexcusable and probably illegal. Hopefully, the public outcry about this incident will make the district take the hint.
And hopefully that will happen before Kim's upcoming deployment to Kosovo.
(H/T: Washington Times)