Journalists may, or may not, be above the law

A little sideshow from the current gun control debate has grown into a Big Top act all its own, as we learn that not only did David Gregory of NBC News possibly violate D.C. gun laws by waving a 30-round gun magazine around on the set of “Meet the Press,” but it seems the police were consulted beforehand… and specifically told NBC not to do it.  From a D.C. police email sent to concerned viewers, whose authenticity has been verified by William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection:

The Metropolitan Police Department is in receipt of your e-mail regarding David Gregory segment on “Meet the Press.” MPD has received numerous e-mails informing us of the segment. NBC contacted MPD inquiring if they could utilize a high capacity magazine for their segment. NBC was informed that possession of a high capacity magazines is not permissible and their request was denied. This matter is currently being investigated. Thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention.

(Emphasis mine.)  Fellow journalist Howard Kurtz sneered that police prosecution of Gregory was a ridiculous “waste of time”:

I seriously doubt that he’s going to jail. But the D.C. Police Department apparently has nothing better to do than examine whether he violated the city’s gun laws.

Was the moderator of Meet the Press caught on tape, armed and dangerous, liberating a few Slurpees from a 7-Eleven? No, he waved a high-capacity ammunition clip on the air while interviewing Wayne LaPierre, asking it shouldn’t be banned.

Was it a stunt? Yep, and an eye-catching one. Was Gregory being aggressive with the NRA chief, or seeming to push gun control in a confrontational interview? All that is up for debate.

But a police probe over what I assume was an empty ammo clip is a total waste of time. What it demonstrates above all is that journalists are getting ensnared in the political war over gun control.

I agree with Kurtz that David Gregory is only a menace to the public if his arguments are taken seriously; he’s not likely to use his 30-round clip to go on a shooting spree.  But Kurtz’ disdain is a powerful indictment of the very hyper-regulatory Big Government he, Gregory, and most of their peers strongly favor.

Plenty of “little people” run afoul of crazy laws, relentlessly administered.  Most of them didn’t even get the courtesy of a police warning explicitly informing them about potential violation of the law.  Many of these violations are entirely innocent.  Sometimes they boil down to bureaucratic misunderstandings… which can be cold comfort to those who find themselves on the wrong end of misunderstanding bureaucrats.

The only difference between those countless faceless victims and David Gregory is that the latter is a highly-paid, high-profile employee of a high-powered news network – in other words, a member of the Ruling Class.  It’s supposed to be tastefully understood that most of the little rules for Little People don’t apply to him, any more than demands for a helpless and disarmed citizenry mean the Ruling Class will disarm its own bodyguards.  This is especially true when a member of the Ruling Class dons the mantle of righteousness and declares that he Really, Really Cares about an Important Issue.  For the well-connected, such informal understandings trump written law.

No government should be issuing bodies of law that well-meaning citizens cannot hope to comprehend, and therefore comply with.  No government should be writing laws that don’t apply to some people.  If the D.C. gun laws are silly, then change them.  Important people should not have the unregulated, informally granted power to waive them on the fly.  Too many of us are compelled to live within the regulatory maze, while a favored few get to skip along on top of it… with offenses all the way up to tax evasion brushed aside as beneath the notice of the aristocracy.