In Washington, D.C., you can apparently break the city's strict gun laws and get away with it… as long as you're the host of a nationally broadcasted television program.
In December 2012, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre was the guest on NBC's "Meet the Press." During the interview host David Gregory held up an empty high-capacity magazine to make a point about gun laws.
There's just one problem. Possessing a high-capacity magazine is illegal in Washington, D.C., where the show was broadcasting live.
Recent documents acquired by the blog Legal Insurrection show that NBC had asked various law enforcement agencies whether they were within the law to air the segment. D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department told Gregory's team that showing the magazine violated local laws, and that Gregory could be arrested for doing so. Indeed, police requested an arrest warrant but the District prosecutor opted not to pursue the matter, according to court documents.
In a letter to NBC, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan said he would not press charges "despite the clarity of the violation of this important law." Nathan wrote a prosecution "would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia" in part because displaying the magazine was intended to inform "an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States." The letter notes that Gregory "has no criminal record."
Not everyone thinks Gregory should get a pass.
"The fact that they can deliberately violate the law, while tons of poor D.C. residents get arrested all the time for unknowingly violating the law shows a double standard in how these things are prosecuted," William A. Jacobson, Legal Insurrection publisher and Cornell University law professor, told Fusion.
Jacobson worked with conservative legal watchdog group Judicial Watch for two years to get the affidavit of police requesting an arrest warrant. It wasn't until they filed a lawsuit that they were able to obtain the document.
"We never actually wanted [Gregory] prosecuted, but we wanted to draw attention to the fact that these laws are not enforced against the elite," Jacobson said. "If these laws that entrap innocents were enforced on high profile elites like David Gregory then they would be done away with."
NBC did not immediately respond to Fusion's request for comment.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.