December 27th, 2012
01:12 PM ET
10 years 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. Smacky Smooth

    I am so sad this is a big prosecutorial issue and not real bad people with loaded magazines and guns in the city proper of DC. Now I get why it is so crime-laden. By the way MPD...FBI/ATF/Fed Govt trumps, sorry you wont be able to drag your token liberal down the main street to put him in the stocks.

    December 27, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. snowdogg

    Much ado about nothing.

    December 27, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. walleye46

    He and Clinton, two former presidents, worked together – an example that should be followed today by those in DC. Hope he feels better and enjoys the next skydive at 90.

    December 27, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  4. 21k

    too many hero-wanna-bees have watched "red dawn" reruns too many times. maybe we should make assault weapon ownership contingent upon an honorable discharge from the military. you want to own an ak? sign up for a stint. after you get out, you can go get a permit to own one.

    December 27, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. Turtle

    Seems to me that Mr. Gregory proved how ineffective gun laws are. Fact: DC has a law against possesing this item. Specifically, a magazine capable (not containing) a specified number of rounds. Specifically, does not matter if the item in question is attached to a gun. The law was easily broken, by Mr Gregory. If pols and media wonks want these laws are to be effective, prosecute the offender, regardless of his occupation. It seem that NBC has again taken a sensational 'News of the World' approach to garnering ratings at any cost.

    December 27, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  6. JohnS

    1st – If there was any doubt of the legality, could he not have just shown a picture of the magazine?
    2nd – It's a good law, as the crooks will certainly obey and be limited to lesser-capacity magazines, just carry more of them...!

    December 27, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  7. MP

    The more that anchor Carol is on TV the more stupid she seems. She is by no way fair and impartial anymore. Maybe celebrity got to her and she's abandoning her duty to broadcast and try and convince people of her own beliefs/agenda.

    December 27, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  8. subcomunic8r

    Isn't it ironic? Don'cha think? David Gregory, while shilling for a magazine ban, violates the law. Bonus points for demonstrating on national TV how ineffective it is.

    December 27, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. Mike from Seattle

    Interesting law. And if you've been in Toys R Us lately, that could easily be a magazine from a "kid's" toy.

    December 27, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. Demetri

    First the NRA and conservative news media was calling for David Gregory's scalp now that additional information has come out, now the law is the problem. How convenient!

    December 27, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  11. GatorDude

    The newsman demonstrated how ineffective gun control laws can be. There was nothing to physically stop Gregory from obtaining the clip, taking it into D.C., taking it into the television station, and displaying it on the air. While AR-style rifles are a little mall ninja for my tastes, functionally they aren't much different than any other semi-automatic rifle.

    We should think twice about banning them, future generations may need them. You know future generations who live in a desperate fallen flat broke country with no money for social welfare programs, a moribund economy, a poor educational system, and an ineffective dysfunctional government that is beholden to powerful multinational business interests. Just as past generations had to deal with hostile tribes, revolution, foreign invasion, illegal invasion by hostile neighboring states, slavery, violent hate groups (aka the KKK), world war, riots, and terrorism, future generations may face challenges that require the second amendment and effective modern firearms.

    December 27, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. Alger Dave

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Bad info is no excuse. There is no mercy when at the hands of the liberal gun police. DC will let DG off the hook, but not your or I. You can count on it.

    December 27, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. Karen

    How idiotic! They want to investigate and possibly prosecute David Gregory, while thousands have illegal weapons and magazines? The police need to go after the criminals, not moderators!

    December 27, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  14. scarf

    I work in a hospital with hundreds of cancer patients. Despite all our efforts, many of these patients still die. This illustrates the utter uselessness of anti-cancer drugs. Therefore, we should stop trying to cure cancer. Anti-cancer treatments are like anti-gun laws; they fail to be 100% effective, so we should stop trying to use them to keep people from dying. (Did I get the rationale of the anti-gun control people right?)

    December 27, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  15. subcomunic8r

    @scarf: To use your cancer analogy, gun control is to society as morphine is to cancer. It treats a symptom, but doesn't
    cure the disease.

    December 27, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    Not a fan of David Gregory by any means so I really don't care what happens to him over this stunt of his. I am however in favor of a federal law banning assault weapons and all the paraphernalia that is such an intricate part of these killing machines. Including that magazine he's holding. (Whether it was empty or not.)

    December 27, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  17. tarura

    Posessing a magazine like this is illegal? So what?

    There are other things, or rather people who are illegal in this country and Obama gives them a waiver.
    Dems will make sure Gregory is safe and well.

    December 27, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  18. Usbagold

    A perfect example of why we do jot need more gun laws! Even the Federal Government and the ATF cannot keep up with the laws. As we have all seen, in this case the law did a great job of preventing possession.

    December 27, 2012 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  19. Thomas

    See how well the law banning the high capacity magazines worked! Oh yeah, it didn't. But David Gregory isn't a criminal so he doesn't have to obey the law like the criminals do! Oh wait! Criminals don't obey the law! If any of you anti gun morons would have any valid arguments, why do you ALWAYS have to exploit a tragedy? How about outlawing the murders of little kids. Oh yeah, that's already illegal! Let's outlaw booze! Then we wouldn't have any drunks! Oh yeah, we tried that and it didn't work. If you think that banning honest citizens from owning this type of firearm or this type of magazine will affect the crime rate in any instance (except to make it go up) you are truly beyond the point of having a rational discussion. You are every part the fool and a tool for the Diane Feinsteins of this country.

    December 27, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  20. Orphicdragon

    Ok I think I missed the memo with the statics update.

    How many people have been killed by empty gun clips?

    I am all for a ban on assault weapons, but stupid crap like this is why that ban will end up worthless.

    December 27, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  21. ModerateMike

    Doing the wrong thing for the right reason is never acceptable. Lets see if they try to sweep this under the liberal rug because it doesn't benefit them.

    December 27, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  22. lmc11

    The question is why does David Gregory's daughter go to a school with armed guards, yes 11 of them, when he is so opposed to guns?

    December 27, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  23. lmc11

    We should all take not that his kids go to a school with armed guards.

    December 27, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  24. Bob Semp

    I disagree with Lapierre – Gregory should be arrested and prosecuted as per the law in DC specifies. Any one of us "commoners" certainly would be.

    December 27, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    So, this seems like such an overblown story, but here is the problem: If everyone followed all the laws there would be no argument about gun control. If all gun owners followed all the laws, there would be no gun violence because that would be illegal. In this case, all parties involved didn't violate federal law, but they violated state and local law, which has a stricter policy than the federal government. Before we go making a bunch of new gun laws we don't intend to enforce, lets look at prosecuting those in violation of current law (like the producer and host of this show). If we can't do that, the laws are useless, so let's not make any new laws.

    December 27, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
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