While many in the media have defended David Gregory's violation of the District of Columbia's strict gun laws when he held up a 30-round magazine during a December 23 Meet the Press interview, the Washington Post's Mike DeBonis is taking things a step further, insisting we don't know for certain whether Gregory held up an actual magazine or just something that "appeared" to look like one.
From DeBonis's page B3 January 10 story (emphases mine):
A decision on whether to pursue criminal charges after an incident in which “Meet the Press” host David Gregory held what appeared to be a high-capacity ammunition magazine on national television could come by week’s end, the District’s attorney general said Wednesday.
Possessing a magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds, even if it is empty, is a misdemeanor that can carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Gregory held the prop during a Dec. 23 broadcast in which he interviewed Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, about the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The online version of the story, accessible here, includes a link to a Dec. 26 video of DeBonis's colleague Erik Wemple discussing the incident. Wemple noted that in the segment itself, Gregory insisted what he was holding was an actual 30-round magazine and that "He gave us no reason to believe it was a toy or a replica or something that was just there for, you know, cosmestic or sort of display purposes."
If Gregory was merely holding up a replica, why hasn't NBC News insisted as much in a public statement? And if Gregory was holding up a replica, why did he lie on national television by insisting that he was holding an actual 30-round magazine? If he lied about what he was displaying, doesn't that call into question his journalistic credibility as he misled his audience about what he had in his hands?
DeBonis also sought to portray the criminal transgression in question as a "low-level [offense]," a mere misdemeanor that "can carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine."
But as Emily Miller of the Washington Times noted in a January 4 column, the District of Columbia usually aggressively prosecutes these cases. Miller noted the story of James Brinkley, a U.S. Army veteran peacefully transporting a gun through the district in a locked car trunk en route to a shooting range (emphasis mine):
The Washington Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) inquiry into whether NBC’s David Gregory broke the law by possessing a 30-round “high-capacity” magazine on national TV has been ongoing for three weeks. Meanwhile, U.S. Army veteran James Brinkley is still grappling with the fallout from his arrest last year on the same charge.
Mr. Brinkley’s story is just one example of at least 105 individuals who, unlike Mr. Gregory, were arrested in 2012 for having a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds.
On Sept. 8, Mr. Brinkley says he intended to drop his wife and young children at the White House for a tour and then head to a shooting range to practice for the U.S. Marshals Service test. Just like Mr. Gregory, Mr. Brinkley called MPD in advance for guidance on how he could do this legally. Mr. Brinkley was told that the gun had to be unloaded and locked in the trunk, and he couldn’t park the car and walk around.
Unlike Mr. Gregory, Mr. Brinkley followed the police orders by placing his Glock 22 in a box with a big padlock in the trunk of his Dodge Charger. The two ordinary, 15-round magazines were not in the gun, and he did not have any ammunition with him.
As he was dropping off his family at 11 a.m. on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Brinkley stopped to ask a Secret Service officer whether his wife could take the baby’s car seat into the White House. The officer saw Mr. Brinkley had an empty holster, which kicked off a traffic stop that ended in a search of the Charger’s trunk. Mr. Brinkley was booked on two counts of “high capacity” magazine possession (these are ordinary magazines nearly everywhere else in the country) and one count of possessing an unregistered gun.
Despite the evidence Mr. Brinkley had been legally transporting the gun, his attorney Richard Gardiner said the D.C. Office of the Attorney General “wouldn’t drop it.” This is the same office now showing apparent reluctance to charge Mr. Gregory.
Mr. Brinkley refused to take a plea bargain and admit guilt, so the matter went to trial Dec. 4. The judge sided with Mr. Brinkley, saying he had met the burden of proof that he was legally transporting. Mr. Brinkley was found not guilty on all firearms-related charges, including for the “high-capacity” magazines, and he was left with a $50 traffic ticket.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told The Washington Times, “We feel it was a valid arrest, and the appropriate charges were brought.” Moments later, a spokesman for the D.C. attorney general's office, Ted Gest, called and provided the exact same quote. Mr. Gest added that, despite Mr. Brinkley’s acquittal, the ruling “doesn’t mean the judge is right, and we’re wrong.”
Mr. Brinkley believes the “Meet the Press” anchor is receiving special treatment because of his high-profile job. “I’m an average person,” Mr. Brinkley said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times. “There seems to be a law for us and a law for the upper echelon.”
Mr. Brinkley was publicly humiliated, thrown in jail and forced to spend money to defend himself for violating a law that millions of viewers watched the NBC anchor violate. If D.C. is going to have this pointless law, it should at least be enforced fairly.