December 27th, 2012
01:12 PM ET
1 year ago

ATF official cites 'miscommunication' over NBC gun magazine flap

(CNN) – NBC evidently got conflicting guidance from federal and local law enforcement officials about the legality of displaying an empty gun magazine on "Meet the Press," according to statements by the agencies involved.

An official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CNN that he relayed information to NBC from the Washington Metropolitan Police Department that displaying an empty gun magazine was legal. Meanwhile, an MPD spokeswoman said her department told NBC such a display would be illegal.

It was not clear in what order NBC received the communications. NBC declined again on Thursday to comment on the matter.

On Sunday, "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory used what he described as a 30-round magazine while asking National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre whether banning such magazines could help lessen the impact of deadly shootings. In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, gun control advocates have been pushing for a limit on high capacity magazines.

Following the broadcast, several conservative columnists questioned the legality of possessing the magazine in the District of Columbia, which has strict gun control laws.

The ATF official told CNN on Thursday that a reporter with NBC News - not Gregory - called ATF last Friday to inquire whether it would be legal to have ammunition or an empty magazine on the set of the Sunday show, which is broadcast from Washington.

The ATF official said he reached out to officers with the MPD to ask if that was permissible.

"What was relayed back to me - which turned out to be a miscommunication - is ammunition was not legal unless (in the possession of an officer), but a magazine was not a problem," said the official, who passed along the information to NBC.

The detail about empty magazines being legal in Washington was apparently inaccurate. Possessing a large-capacity ammunition device, such as a magazine, is illegal in the District of Columbia if the device holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The code also specifies the large-capacity devices are illegal, regardless of whether they're attached to a firearm. Gregory showed the magazine Sunday without a firearm attached.

"I don't know where the miscommunication occurred (at the MPD), but I do know that I passed along the information that I was told," the ATF official said.

"We didn't give anyone permission, but we just relayed the information," the official continued.

The official spoke on the condition of being identified only as an "ATF official" to speak freely about the story.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the MPD said a representative for NBC inquired ahead of the broadcast about using the high-capacity magazine.

The department spokeswoman, Tisha Gant, said the police told NBC it could not use the magazine. Gant said the matter is under investigation.

NRA President David Keene said on CNN Thursday he didn't think Gregory should be prosecuted for possessing the magazine, calling the D.C. law "silly."

"There are two lessons for him there," Keene said. "Don't ask the government what's legal and what isn't legal, because half the people you ask don't know. And secondly, that's a silly felony. It's a felony in Washington, D.C., to own that magazine or to be caught with a cartridge. So I really think what David Gregory did, while he was inadvertently flaunting the law, was illustrated in a very graphic way, perhaps not intentionally, just how silly some of these laws are."

CNN's Kevin Bohn, Larry Lazo and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: Gun rights
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. Strictly Speaking

    Media is exempt from the law...ever seen the show "Moonshiners"? Like I said...selective enforcement. If showing the thing was so important, I am sure somewhere in the vast media archives there is some footage somewhere. Different set of rules it appears

    December 27, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  2. Borderless

    Gun nuts reduced to desperate measures trying to block any reasonable anti-gun legislation. If Obama was even a halfway decent president he would be capitalize on the current mood of the country in the wake of the CT shooting and push through some decent legislation outlawing such weapons. Unfortunately, Obama is a terrible president.

    December 27, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Funny how the Feds, which have no jurisdiction in this case, have suddenly come up with an alibi for Gregory. This would be the same ATF that let hundreds of assault weapons go to Mexican drug cartels. This would be the same Feds who work for Mr. Gregory's close personal friend, Barack Obama. Interesting.

    December 27, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  4. batjones

    I was forgiving of David Gregory in an earlier CNN posting, based on the reports within that article. However, since NBC received conflicting advice from law enforcement, there is no excuse for breaking the law. The responsible choice is not to show the magazine. Apparently NBC went forum shopping just like the attorneys on Law and Order, until it found an agency that said it was okay to show an empty magazine. I still do not think it is worth the expense to process this specific matter through the courts. Just have David Gregory send a million dollar check to the local PBA.

    December 27, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  5. Richard Debateur

    Funny how the Feds, which have no jurisdiction in this case, have suddenly come up with an alibi for Gregory. This would be the same ATF that let hundreds of assault weapons go to Mexican drug cartels. This would be the same Feds who work for Mr. Gregory's close personal friend, Barack Obama. Interesting.

    December 27, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. Dorkus Maximus

    "Possessing a large-capacity ammunition device, such as a magazine, is illegal in the District of Columbia if the device holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition."

    If the magazine was empty, it wasn't holding any rounds of ammunition and thus not illegal. While it was capable of holding ammunition, so is a paper bag. To my knowledge, it is not illegal to possess a paper bag in DC.

    December 27, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. bill

    Everyone knows that laws don't apply in Washington dc. Just send him to the mayors office to smoke some crack, give him a lifetime pension, and exempt him & his family from the the ripoff healthcare system the rest of us have to endure. That'll learn him...

    December 27, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    None of this would have taken place had a Republican or a conservative did what Gregory did. Why? Because liberals would never had called in the DC police and charged them with arresting someone. That's what right wing extremists do.

    But, hey. I say that the right is making a major mistake blowing horns over this. All that it does is that it brings to light that there is a serious problem and confusion with gun laws as one travels around the country. It draws attention to the fact that no baseline set of rules exists. It draws attention to the fact that despite DC's best efforts, one can acquire weapons of war just a mere 5 miles away in Virginia. Do you think the right wing can figure out the flaws in making a big issue out of this? If they thought Romney would win in a landslide, what do you think?

    December 27, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. sierrafoxtrot

    There are numerous idiotic laws in effect at, both, the state and federal level. There is a direct correlation between increasing legislation and decreasing freedom. In 2010 on January 1st, 40,267 new laws went into effect around the country, each one of them representing the disappearence of a slice of our freedom. Not to mention that we are governed to the lowest common denominator, look around and see if you notice adults who appear to be awaiting some form of instruction as to what they are supposed to do next, pay attention to how many people you observe on a daily basis who don't appear to posses a shred of common sense or independant thinking skills...

    December 27, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  10. Name lynn

    the people is still in shock about all these guns and the killing going on all around the world that may be the problems

    December 27, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  11. Frank A NYC

    I don't see why he shouldn't be prosecuted. NBC asked and was told by the DC Police it was illegal. He did it any way. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

    December 27, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Richard Debateur wrote:

    Funny how the Feds, which have no jurisdiction in this case, have suddenly come up with an alibi for Gregory. This would be the same ATF that let hundreds of assault weapons go to Mexican drug cartels.
    ----------------
    Actually, it was Arizona gun laws that allowed hundreds of assault weapon to go to Mexico.

    1. Arizona gun laws allowed the weapons to be sold.
    2. Arizona gun laws allowed people to purchase dozens at a time.
    3. Arizona gun laws require that you sign a statement that your gun purchase is your personal use, but makes no stipulation on time.
    4. Arizona gun laws allow for private sales of guns between owneres.

    In other words, it was Arizona gun laws that allowed a "mule" to go into a gun store, purchase 3 dozen assault rifles and ammunition, and then re-sell all of it to someone waiting outside in the parking lot.

    December 27, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  13. Matt

    I say prosecute Gregory and anyone else who touched it to the fullest extent of the law. Is nobody at NBC capable of actually reading a law themselves?

    December 27, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    So much anger, so much hate. It is not a suprise we have so many white males that are mass murderers and serial killers.

    December 27, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. DanStlMo

    This is a stupid law however, I hope Gregory is charged and the NRA comes to his defense.

    December 27, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. Gurgyl

    This nation needs to pass GUN-CONTROL LAW. Period. This second amendment is all BS.

    December 27, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. PaulRevere2013

    Phase III is well underway. Soon we will have the American people completely disarmed so that we may anally probe them.

    December 27, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    sierrafoxtrot wrote:

    There are numerous idiotic laws in effect at, both, the state and federal level. There is a direct correlation between increasing legislation and decreasing freedom.
    ---------------
    Any high school physics student can tell you that as you increase the number of particles in an enclosed space, then each particle experiences less and less freedom of motion. This applies to particles, molecules and compounds of all sizes-right up to and including people.

    But, hey, that's a scientific fact so I don't expect you to agree with it, much less understand it.

    December 27, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. Marc in Texas

    The fact is that the discussion and point that the magazine is ILLEGAL is proof that the law works. I would bet that if a DC police officer pulled over a car with a box of 30 round magazines, all empty, in the driver's seat, that person would be suspected of a crime. In Phoenix, of course, the NRA ensures that a person with a box of magazines, all full, can sell them to Mexican drug cartels with impunity, while the idiots who let the NRA think for them blame Eric Holder. The NRA is too incopetent to even be involved in a policy discussion – they defy logic, common sense, and are just sock puppets for an industry. Anyone who believe otherwise wither lacks intelligence or is insane. But, of course, we allow them to possess as many weapons as they want. Asinine.

    December 27, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  20. Adrian

    Why in the world would showing the magazine on television be against the law? It's a news story. The archaic laws in our country, much like the 1949 statue that's at the heart the pending Farm Bill fiasco, need to be changed. Instead of forcing politicians to lie so they can appeal to everyone, we need to actually read the laws and send them to Washington to actually change some things.

    December 27, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  21. Fred Evil

    Come on NBC, this is like a kid running to Daddy(feds) when Mommy (MPD) said no.

    " There is a direct correlation between increasing legislation and decreasing freedom."
    If you don't like legislation, then stop the jerks who are screwing their fellow Americans from doing so! Regulations aren't created simply for the fun of it, they are created because Americans have shown a rampant willingness to screw over other Americans for the almighty dollar!

    December 27, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  22. marita

    There are really BIG problems that should be discussed + dealt with! Why are we wasting time on this?It's not even worth mentioning in comparison! Is there any logic left anywhere?! – @Marita.

    December 27, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  23. sammieb51

    If he was using it to make a point in his story and had obtained all the legal positions he could obtain, i don't see anything wrong with him displaying it, esp since it was empty - was the NRA director scared or something? Hell he probably had a real gun on him. It's not like he was acting like Dick Armey going to Freedomworks with armed guards in an attemped coup when he was fired or anything right? And who has heard a peep about that!?

    December 27, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  24. Mr. C.

    Fantastic to know the NRA is advising which laws should be disregarded as "silly" and which ones are legitimate. Glad to know the president of a major political movement whose intent it is to work within the law advocates their non-compliance when it doesn't suit their need. What's next for him – allowing fully automatic conversions on those AK-47 sportsman "hunting rifles" to maximize the chances of killing that fearsome dear?

    December 27, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Anonymous

    So much anger, so much hate. It is not a suprise we have so many white males that are mass murderers and serial killers.
    =========================================

    Kinda makes you wonder where their parents fit into the scenario. All those video games. All those pep talks on how guns don't kill. All those endless days and nights sitting in mommy and daddy's basement doing nothing. The responsibility these men were forced to face in their young lives must have been truly mind-boggling. For them anyway.

    December 27, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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