So says William Jacobson and he’s got the official confirmations to prove it. Yesterday this was a story about how onerous gun regs could trip up even an unwitting, innocent reporter. Now it’s a story about media self-regard:
Officer Aziz Alali of the MPD Public Information Office … gave me this statement by telephone:
“NBC contacted the Metropolitan Police Department inquiring if they could utilize a high [capacity] magazine for thie segment. NBC was informed that that possession of a high capacity magazine is not permissible and the request was denied. This matter is currently being investigate and I cannot get into any further specifics on this investigation.”
A police official said the case has been assigned to detectives in the gun unit. Investigators will first determine whether the segment was taped in the District and then whether the clip Gregory held up on air was real and contained bullets.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said detectives would be reaching out to NBC officials, but had not yet spoken to Gregory. Any request to use a magazine would have been turned down as a matter of course, the official saids, because it would have implicated police in an illegal act.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg tweets:
Excellent use of DC police resources, investigating Meet the Press for committing an act of journalism: washingtonpost.com/blogs/crime-sc…
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) December 26, 2012
That’s the point of calling for Gregory to be prosecuted, though — to highlight how gun regs frequently force cops to waste time hassling non-dangerous, otherwise law-abiding gun owners. Charging a guy for possessing a high-capacity magazine when he had neither a gun nor ammo with which to use it is an absurd illustration of policing the weapon instead of the “shooter.” In fact, given the publicity this has gotten online, maybe they don’t even need to charge him now. Maybe the mere possibility of it happening (or the possibility of Gregory having to address this on Sunday’s show) is so ridiculous that the point has already been made.
Question, then: If the cops warned him beforehand that he couldn’t lawfully display the magazine, why’d he do it anyway? The most arresting thing about the MTP segment is how gratuitous that part is; a photo showing a high-capacity mag alongside a regular one would have made the point just as well. Why risk prosecution for such a negligible bit of showmanship, especially when gun-rights advocates could point to it as proof of how easy it is to bring a HCM into a jurisdiction with laws as tight as D.C.’s? I think it’s a simple matter of Gregory and his producers wanting to signal to their audience that their commitment to journalism trumps all else. If there’s a risk of prison here, hey — that’s something they’re willing to accept in order to please their audience with a dumb, dramatic flourish while grilling Wayne LaPierre. Besides, the risk is small. How likely is it that an anti-gun district like D.C. is going to send a reporter to jail for something he did while confronting one of the gun lobby’s top spokesmen on TV? Even if they were inclined to prosecute, the public outcry — and resulting skepticism towards gun laws — from a harsh sentence would force them to let him off easy with only the tiniest wrist slap. He risked basically nothing with his stunt and got tons of free press for it. I guarantee you that he’d do it again if he could.
Update: The confusion over gun laws deepens…
Well-placed law enforcement sources tell TMZ … a staffer from “Meet the Press” called ATF before the show aired to inquire about the legality of David holding the empty magazine during a segment on gun control. We’re told the ATF person contacted the D.C. police to find out if the District of Columbia — the place where the show is broadcast — had a law prohibiting such a display.
Our sources say the D.C. police official informed ATF David could legally show the magazine, provided it was empty. An ATF official then called the staffer from “Meet the Press” to inform them they could use the magazine.
So two different D.C. cops told them two different things?