It's been more than a week since police in Washington, D.C., opened an investigation into NBC's David Gregory's possession of a "high-capacity magazine" that's prohibited in the District on on national TV. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier's spokesman refused Monday to respond to whether Mr. Gregory had even been interviewed yet. This is a rather curious departure for a city that has been ruthless in enforcing this particular firearms statute against law-abiding citizens who made an honest mistake.
In July, The Washington Times highlighted the plight of former Army Spc. Adam Meckler, who was arrested and jailed for having a few long-forgotten rounds of ordinary ammunition -- but no gun -- in his backpack in Washington. Mr. Meckler, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, says he had no idea it was illegal to possess unregistered ammunition in the city. He violated the same section of D.C. law as Mr. Gregory allegedly did, and both offenses carry the same maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
Mr. Meckler was charged with the crime and was forced to accept a plea deal to avoid the cost and time of a protracted legal fight. The indefensible nature of Mr. Meckler's case led directly to a new law passed by the D.C. Council in December that allows prosecutors to file civil instead of criminal charges, but only if the accused was unaware of the city's laws.
That exemption probably wouldn't apply to Mr. Gregory, who held up a 30-round rifle magazine on his show on Dec. 23 to make his point about the need to ban them. NBC asked the police in advance for permission to bring the contraband into Washington for the interview with National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre, but it was not granted.
"I unknowingly broke the law," Mr. Meckler told The Washington Times. "Mr. Gregory knowingly broke the law. While both are seemingly harmless, both acts were deemed illegal under the District's obscure firearms laws." Mr. Meckler said he would never have intentionally left the rounds in his bag.
The former Army medic is still upset about being left with a criminal record and being enrolled on the police list of firearms-related criminals. "I think if you had to measure the criminality of the two instances, his should be interpreted as more severe. At the very least, he should be put on probation, pay a fine and be added to the District's Gun Offender Registry, as I was ordered to do," Mr. Meckler said.
The administration wasn't concerned that it had invited a potential gun criminal to the White House Saturday for an exclusive interview with President Obama. The president used this platform to call for enactment of a new ban within a year on what he called "assault rifles" and "high-capacity clips."
The District came up with its overly restrictive laws in response to the Supreme Court overturning the capital city's 30-year gun ban. The statutes shouldn't apply just to regular people but to the rich and powerful as well. The District should either repeal its over-the-top restrictions or send a squad car to take David Gregory into custody.
Read the whole story of Spc. Meckler’s case here: MILLER: D.C. arrests vet for unregistered ammunition
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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