NBC Got Greenlight From Feds For Gun Ammo Stunt

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 27 2012 10:07 AM

NBC Got Green Light For Gun Ammo Prop—but from the Wrong People

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Screengrab from Sunday's Meet The Press

As we explained yesterday, the D.C. police department is currently investigating whether Meet The Press host David Gregory broke city law when he displayed what he said was a high-capacity gun magazine during Sunday's interview with NRA chief Wayne LaPierre.

From pretty much any reading of the D.C. city code, it's pretty clear that (assuming the prop was what Gregory said it was) someone at NBC was in violation of the letter of the district's gun laws, which make it illegal for anyone to "possess, sell, or transfer any large capacity ammunition feeding device regardless of whether the device is attached to a firearm."

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NBC has yet to comment publicly on the incident, but from the sounds of it their defense will be to say that they got faulty information from the federal government, which appears to have given the show the unofficial green-light to go ahead with the stunt. The New York Times explains:

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.

The problem for Gregory and the rest of the MTP team, however, is that they also checked in with the D.C. police department, which says it was pretty clear about where it stood on the whole matter. "NBC was informed that possession of a high-capacity magazine was not permissible and their request was denied," police spokesman Araz Alali said yesterday.

First-time offenders found in violation of one of D.C.'s gun laws face a max fine of $1,000 and/or up to a year incarceration, but it's pretty hard to imagine this leading to any serious charges for Gregory or anyone else at NBC.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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