NBC talk show "Meet the Press" apparently received conflicting information from law enforcement about whether it is legal to possess a high-capacity gun magazine, leading to a highly publicized televised incident now under investigation by D.C. police.
During the Sunday morning airing of the show, host David Gregory displayed what appeared to be a magazine as he interviewed National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre during a segment on gun control. Such magazines are illegal in the District, where gun laws are among the strictest in the nation.
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police Department confirmed it is investigating the incident.
"NBC contacted MPD inquiring if they could utilize a high capacity magazine for their segment. NBC was informed that possession of a high capacity magazine is not permissible and their request was denied. This matter is currently being investigated," the department said in a statement.
Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, however, said someone working for "Meet the Press" reached out to the federal agency Friday to inquire about using a magazine during Sunday's segment, which prompted ATF to seek clarification from D.C. police. The bureau said it was given erroneous information from officers within the department's gun unit about the legality of possessing an unloaded magazine.
D.C. police officials told the ATF official inquiring "that ammunition was not OK and that the magazine was OK," said one ATF official with knowledge of the incident. That information, which the official chalked up to "miscommunication" between the agencies, was passed along to the NBC staffer. It was unclear from the D.C. police statement when NBC reached out directly to the department about the matter.
NBC did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Gregory held up the magazine, which is illegal in the District even when not attached to a weapon, during a line of questioning Sunday about the Dec. 14 mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.
"Here is a magazine for ammunition that carries 30 bullets. Now, isn't it possible if we got rid of these, if we replaced them and said, 'Well, you can only have a magazine that carries five bullets or 10 bullets,' isn't it just possible that we could reduce the carnage in a situation like Newtown?" Mr. Gregory asked.
The incident prompted an outcry on Twitter, where many observers questioned why Mr. Gregory was permitted to violate city law. The violation is punishable by up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine or both.
While D.C. police are investigating the series of events, it remains unclear whether Mr. Gregory or other show staffers will be prosecuted.
"Assuming it is real and what it was purported to be, the issue for us will be the mindset, the intent," one law enforcement official with knowledge of the case said.
If charges are brought against someone from the incident, it likely will be the person who obtained and transported the magazine rather than Mr. Gregory for displaying it on the program, the official said.
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Andrea Noble is a crime and public safety reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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