Pro-gun activists are rallying for a July 4 march across the Memorial Bridge, down Independence Avenue and through the Capitol, and past the U.S. Supreme Court and White House.
And they plan to do this shouldering loaded rifles.
Our D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand this is a measure intended to protest a perceived assault on gun rights.
Where these estimated 1,000 to 10,000-plus activists plan to start their march, on the Virginia side of the Potomac, there may not be much of an issue, as gun laws there are relatively lax.
However, in crossing over the bridge and into D.C., they may be setting themselves up for trouble.
In D.C., as in most other places, it's illegal for people convicted of a felony to be in possession of a firearm or to possess an unregistered firearm or to carry a pistol without a license.
But even assuming everyone involved in the march has a clean criminal record, has a registered firearm and a license, he or she could still face criminal charges in D.C.
In fact, D.C. Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier warned that if protestors violate the district's gun laws - which prohibit open carry - they will be arrested.
The District is in the company of only three states in banning open carry of handguns outright. Thirty-five states expressly allow it.
However, the District does permit open carry of long guns - that is, rifles or shot guns - in public. But if those long rifles are loaded, it's a different story.
Event organizer Adam Kokesh is an Iraq War veteran, radio host and libertarian. He said he has put the police department "on notice" of his intentions, adding that "We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees."
Kokesh was discharged from the military six years ago, after engaging in political activity while in uniform. While we certainly admire the spirit in which the protest is intended, we have concerns that this won't end well.
Organizers have yet to file a permit or make direct contact with the Metro Police, though Lanier said her agency intends to reach out to the organizers to make them understand what needs to be done in order to be in compliance with the law.
"Passing into the District of Columbia with loaded firearms is a violation of the law, and we'll have to treat it as such," Lanier was quoted as saying.
Kokesh has said that anyone involved in the protest should respectfully submit to arrest without resistance if he or she is approached "respectfully" by police.
He didn't provide an alternative for action if protesters were met by an officer who approached disrespectfully. He has also been quoted as saying that it won't be violent "unless the government makes it violent."
In a recent Twitter post, Kokesh also said that if the government attempted to take the people's guns, they would have two choices. Either, "shoot government agents, or submit to slavery."
So far, 2,000 people have pledged to attend this march. We would encourage each of them to first be educated on the gun laws in D.C. before openly carrying them.
If you are arrested, immediately seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
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