William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has relayed the latest turns of events in the David Gregory Meet the Press magazine brandishing incident (previous posts here, here, and here). The press is finally paying attention: "Now that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department is on record that it told NBC News not to use the high capacity magazine in its segment with Wayne LaPierre, the big media is paying attention and taking this seriously."
Except that some in the press are, with anonymous sources, trying to excuse Gregory's and NBC's situation by saying that they somehow got permission to display the magazine. Uh, except that the New York Times says that any permission obtained doesn't matter. The permission supposedly came from the federal government's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF):
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.
D.C. police released a statement today, saying "NBC contacted the Metropolitan Police Dept. inquiring if they could utilize a high capacity magazine for this segment. NBC was informed that possession of a high capacity magazine is not permissible and the request was denied."
It appears "Meet the Press" may have gotten 2 different answers from law enforcement.
We're supposed to buy this when named officials with the DC Metro Police were saying as late as nearly noon today that there is an active investigation into something that was supposedly cleared in advance several days ago? Until TMZ or someone in the press gives us names, I think there's a distinct aroma of after-the-fact butt-covering in the air.
Or, as stated by Jacobson, "TMZ is running interference claiming that NBC News was told by ATF that the D.C. Police said it was okay, but the D.C. Police say they were asked directly by NBC News for permission and that permission was denied."
Here's a good question: Why did NBC get so much helpful assistance from the government, which in theory is supposed to be what the network is supposedly in existence to cover objectively? Is advancing the gun control agenda so important that the government will work arm in arm with sympathetic members of the press to promote it for the purpose of visually ambushing an NRA executive on the air? (Looks like the answer is "Yes.")
Jacobson's primary point seems quite valid: "If David Gregory were not David Gregory -- He'd already be in jail." This really does make it appear as if laws are for the little people, who can't pull strings or can't resort to what appear to be post-event story-straightening when they screw up.
Current reportage at the New York Times:
According to a federal law enforcement official, an NBC employee contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Friday to ask whether it would be legal for Mr. Gregory to show the magazine on television without the ammunition. The bureau, which does not enforce Washington’s gun laws, said it would be legal. That information, however, was incorrect, as it is illegal to have any empty magazine in Washington, the official said.
So bad advice leading someone to commit an illegal act doesn't change the fact that an illegal act occurred.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.