No criminal charges will be brought against "Meet the Press" host David Gregory for his display of a high-capacity gun magazine on the show last month, the District's Office of the Attorney General announced Friday.
The decision not to file criminal charges brings an end to authorities' investigation into the circumstances leading up to the Dec. 23 taping of the NBC talk show, during which Mr. Gregory displayed an empty magazine as he interviewed National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre for a segment on gun control.
"Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States," wrote Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan in a letter to an attorney representing NBC that was released Friday.
The segment on the NBC show prompted online outcry among some gun rights activists, who noted that possession of such a magazine — whether it was attached to a gun or not — is illegal in the District. The violation is punishable by up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine or both.
The Metropolitan Police Department announced that officers had finished their investigation into the incident earlier this week and that the "prosecutorial merit of the case" was being evaluated by the Office of the Attorney General, which handles prosecution of low-level crimes.
While officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives previously stated that the agency unknowingly provided incorrect information to an NBC employee regarding the legality of possessing the magazine, the attorney general's letter states that the news organization had received clear advice from the police department.
"Although there appears to have been some misinformation provided initially, NBC was clearly and timely advised by an MPD employee that its plans to exhibit on the broadcast a high capacity-magazine would violate D.C. law, and there was no contrary advice from any federal official," Mr. Nathan wrote. "While you argue that some NBC employees subjectively felt uncertain as to whether its planned actions were lawful or not, we do not believe such uncertainty was justified and we note that NBC has now acknowledged that its interpretation of the information it received was incorrect."
Mr. Nathan's letter closed with a stern warning to NBC officials, noting that it was a close decision whether or not to prosecute Mr. Gregory.
"Repetition by NBC or any employee of any similar or other firearms violation will be prosecuted to the full extent supported by the facts and the law," Mr. Nathan wrote.
Meet the Press issued a brief statement Friday on the matter.
"We displayed the empty magazine solely for journalistic purposes to help illustrate an important issue for our viewers," the statement said. "We accept the District of Columbia Attorney General’s admonishment, respect his decision and will have no further comment on this matter."
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