May 22, 2012
An Army National Guardsman is getting his guns back from the District of Columbia following a two-year court battle.
According to The Washington Times, the city will return 1st Lt. Augustine Kim's firearms, which were confiscated during a 2010 traffic stop by the Metropolitan Police Department, said city property clerk Derek Gray.
Kim, 28, had been storing his weapons collection -- including an AR-15, a Beretta 9mm and several .45-caliber pistols -- at his parents' house in New Jersey while he was deployed in Afghanistan. While on his way back to his home in Charleston, S.C., he stopped at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for an appointment.
The Times reports that after the appointment, Kim became lost in the city and was eventually pulled over by an MPD officer, who asked to search his vehicle. Kim complied, as the guns were safely locked and secured in his trunk with ammunition being stored separately, but that didn't seem to matter to the officer, who arrested Kim on the spot.
"I told them I had been under the impression that as long as the guns were locked in the back, with the ammunition separate, that I was allowed to transport them," Kim told The Times. 'They said, 'That may be true, however, since you stopped at Walter Reed, that makes you in violation of the registration laws.'"
Ah yes, another fine example of D.C.'s anti-gun laws run amok; in our notoriously gun-shy capital, it is illegal to possess a firearm anywhere other than one's own home, so Kim was charged with four felony counts of carrying outside of home, charges carrying a maximum penalty of $20,000 in fines and up to 20 years in prison.
With his military career on the line, Kim lawyered up the next day, calling firearms attorney Richard Gardiner, who convinced prosecutors to offer Kim a plea deal, in which Kim would plead guilty to just one misdemeanor charge of an unregistered gun; that charge would then be dismissed if Kim did not violate the law again for nine months.
Charges against Kim were dropped in May 2011, but the city still held onto his guns as evidence. A reporter from The Times asked an MPD representative whether the department planned on returning the guns, and reported that the department would allow Kim to respond to a letter granting him the right to a hearing -- which The Times speculates was mailed just after the reporter called.
Finally, after a 17-minute hearing Friday, the department announced it would return Kim's guns, following phone calls from South Carolina senators Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, as well as Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
When asked how the District could have handled the case differently, Gardiner suggested that the District be held to the same standard as the federal government: Under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, the government has 60 days from the date of seizure to send out notices to claimants, and upon receiving claims, the government then has 90 days to either file a forfeiture case or return the property.
That means Kim, who is now preparing for deployment to Kosovo, could have gotten his guns back eight months ago.
But that's not the real problem. The District of Columbia overstepped its ridiculous laws by trying to charge an Army veteran with a felony -- four felonies, at that -- and then again when it took its sweet time returning Kim's property. That's not just violating Kim's Second Amendment rights; that's theft.
Rather than roll over and become a victim of an unfair law, thankfully Kim was determined enough to stand up for his rights, and in winning, set a precedent for all legal gun owners in our nation's capital.
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