The trial of syndicated columnist Carl Rowan began Monday in D.C. Superior Court on charges of possessing an unregistered firearm he used to shoot and slightly wound a young intruder at his home.

Rowan shot Ben Smith, 18, of Chevy Chase, Md., who was among a group of people frolicking in the swimming pool at Rowan's Northwest Washington home in the early morning hours of June 1. If convicted, Rowan, 63, could get up to two years in jail and $2,000 in fines.Unlawful entry charges against Smith and a companion, Laura Bachman, of Bethesda, Md., were dropped by the U.S. attorney's office in exchange for each performing 40 hours of community service.

In pretrial proceedings, attorneys for Rowan unsuccessfully attempted to have the charges dropped against the columnist, saying District of Columbia police repeatedly told Rowan's son - an ex-FBI agent who gave Rowan the .22-caliber pistol - that the weapon did not have to be registered.

Rowan, a vocal gun control advocate, has said he agreed to keep the gun in his residence only after receiving repeated death threats.