Monday, March 26, 2007

An aide to Sen. James H. Webb Jr., Virginia Democrat, was taken into custody yesterday after U.S. Capitol Police said he attempted to bring a loaded gun into a Senate office building.

Phillip Thompson, executive assistant to the freshman senator, was detained after a bag he carried into the building was found to contain a loaded handgun and two fully loaded magazines.

Law-enforcement authorities said Mr. Thompson told police that he had been sent to the senator’s car to retrieve a bag belonging to Mr. Webb. The handgun and magazines were discovered during a 10:50 a.m. security check after he tried to bring it into the Russell Senate Office Building, where Mr. Webb’s office is located, through the lower Delaware Avenue and C Street door.

Mr. Thompson was taken into custody and scheduled for a court hearing today on charges of carrying a pistol without a license and being in possession of an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition.

“To our knowledge, this incident was an oversight by the senator’s aide. Phillip Thompson is a former Marine, a long-term friend and trusted employee of the senator. We are still awaiting facts,” said Jessica Smith, spokeswoman for the senator.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said the weapon was detected by an X-ray machine.

“An administrative search revealed that he was in possession of a loaded pistol with two additional fully loaded magazines,” Sgt. Schneider said. “It was determined that he did not have a license to carry a pistol in the District of Columbia. He was in possession of an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition.”

Like his boss, Mr. Thompson is a former Marine officer. He served for 12 years, including in combat with the 1st Marine Division during Operation Desert Storm. A former reporter and editor for the Marine Corps Times, Mr. Thompson joined Mr. Webb after the November election.

In a December interview with the Richmond Times Dispatch, Mr. Thompson said he considered himself a “strong Second Amendment person,” but that he does not routinely carry a gun to work.

“I don’t carry personally, regularly. I shoot regularly. I like to have the option to carry, which is why I keep the permit,” he told the newspaper.

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