Does the rule of law apply equally to all citizens, even when “the law is a ass,” to quote Charles Dickens? Or do celebrities get one form of justice for mindless laws they endorse while breaking them, while everyone else gets the tougher form? That question now rests with the District of Columbia’s Attorney General, who will have to decide what to do with NBC’s David Gregory for brandishing a high-capacity magazine on television:
The decision on whether anyone should be prosecuted after “Meet the Press” host David Gregory appeared to hold a high-capacity ammunition magazine on national television now belongs to the District’s Office of the Attorney General, authorities said Tuesday.
In an e-mail, a spokeswoman for D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said her department has “completed the investigation into this matter, and the case has been presented to the OAG for a determination of the prosecutorial merit of the case.” …
The question of how to proceed now rests with the office of Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, which oversees prosecutions of some low-level offenses. A spokesman for the Nathan said the office would not comment until a decision was made.
On one level, this is absurd. David Gregory wasn’t a threat to public peace. He didn’t intend on using the magazine in a weapon. Intent does matter in criminal prosecution, although it’s not entirely dispositive either. (By the way, it’s equally absurd to use the construct “appeared to hold”; Gregory was seen holding it on television and identified the magazine as a high-capacity version.)
On the other hand, all of this is true because high-capacity magazines present no real danger … especially when not connected to an actual firearm. The danger comes from a person prepared to act malevolently with a high-capacity magazine loaded into a firearm, but the same danger exists whether the magazines hold ten rounds, sixteen rounds, or in the case of revolvers, six rounds. The absurdity is the law itself, which protects no one while giving a false sense of security.
Nevertheless, DC prosecutes people for violating this absurd law, which has done nothing to keep the area out of the top-ranked gun homicide cities, it should be noted. Either Gregory should be held just as accountable as anyone else in DC for violating the law, or the law should be struck and other prosecutions dropped. There is no journalistic privilege for violating gun laws, no matter how absurd they are — even if the violation eminently demonstrates the absurdity.