President Obama wants more gun-control laws, but perhaps he should care more about enforcing the ones already on the books.
He granted an exclusive interview to NBC’s David Gregory on Saturday, even though the “Meet the Press” anchor is under investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for possession of an unregistered “high capacity” magazine in the District. It is also unclear how Mr. Gregory passed the Secret Service background check to enter the White House while under criminal investigation.
Last Sunday, Mr. Gregory held up the illegal magazine on the set of his show in the network’s bureau on Nebraska Ave. as a publicity stuntwhile interviewing the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre. Mr. Gregory held up one rifle magazine he said held “30 bullets” andone that he said carries “five bullets or ten bullets.”
A week later, there has been no warrant issued for his arrest for violating D.C.’s law that says: “No person in the District shall possess, sell, or transfer any large capacity ammunition feeding device regardless of whether the device is attached to a firearm … the term ‘large capacity ammunition feeding device’ means a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has a capacity of, orthat can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition.”
A spokesman for Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told me Friday that theinvestigation was still “ongoing.” A spokesman for NBC would not say whether the police have interviewed Mr. Gregory yet. If this were anyone else, law enforcement sources say that Mr. Gregory would have been arrested and booked on charges that come with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and $1,000 fine.
Chief Lanier is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If she does not charge Mr. Gregory with the felony, she sends a message to the crime-ridden city that the laws don’t apply to the rich and powerful. However, if she books him on breaking the city’s onerous firearms law, it will further illuminate how ridiculous the laws are for law-abiding people to follow.
Just two weeks ago, the District’s city council conceded that it had to do something about the string of embarrassing stories of war vets being thrown in jail for inadvertently breaking the laws. (Click here to read the story of Spc. Adam Meckler. Click here to read about the case of Lt. Augustine Kim.)
Under direction of City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, the new law allows prosecutors to offer civil disposition instead of criminal charges for those who unknowingly violate the city’s’ unique gun laws.This would prevent decent people from being thrown in jail and having a criminal record.
In determining whether or not to press forward with criminal charges,the new law says that prosecutors can take into account “whether at the time of his or her arrest, the person was a resident of the District of Columbia and whether the person had knowledge of” the firearms laws.
Mr. Gregory is a D.C. resident and clearly had knowledge of the lawsince NBC asked MPD in advance for permission to violate the law andwas refused. Mayor Vincent Gray has not yet signed the new law, so itwill not help the NBC anchor avoid criminal prosecution should Chief Lanier move forward.
Some say this was a minor infraction and not worth enforcing it. “The argument defending Gregory — that don’t the police have something better to do?” the head of the MPD police union, Kristopher Baumann explained to me. “The answer is, yes we do. And thank you for making it more difficult to get to those things.”
If Mr. Gregory had honestly not known about the ban on possessing a magazine over 10 rounds, perhaps the public would have some sympathyfor the situation. However, NBC asked the police in advance for permission to break the statute and was refused preferential treatment. No one is above the law.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at the Washington Times. Her “Emily Gets Her Gun” series on the District’s gun laws won the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism.You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.