December 26, 2012
Handguns and other weapons
The haul from a gun buyback program this month. (Mel Evans / The Associated Press)

NBC News has a problem. The question is whether it is a legal one or a journalistic one.

To explain: Washington police are investigating whether “Meet the Press” and David Gregory violated D.C. law when he showed what Gregory said was a 30-round magazine in an interview with National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre.

Here is how Gregory introduced his display:

Here is a magazine for ammunition that carries 30 bullets. Now isn’t it possible that, if we got rid of these, if we replaced them and said, “Well, you could only have a magazine that carries five bullets or ten bullets,” isn’t it just possible that we can reduce the carnage in a situation like Newtown?

The legal problem here is nearly self-confessed. D.C. code plainly prohibits magazines with capacities exceeding 10 rounds of ammunition. Of this regulation, “Meet the Press” cannot possibly claim ignorance or oversight. That’s because of this statement to the Erik Wemple Blog from D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump:

NBC contacted MPD inquiring if they could utilize a high capacity magazine for their segment. NBC was informed that possession of a high capacity magazine is not permissible and their request was denied. This matter is currently being investigated.

Given that response from the cops, perhaps NBC News got creative with its on-air displays, ginning up a facsimile of a high-capacity magazine. As CNN.com put it, “It’s not known whether the magazine Gregory had in his hand was authentic or a prop.”

Such a scenario raises NBC News’s journalism problem. If it wasn’t in fact authentic, Gregory didn’t issue a disclosure to that effect on the air. Viewers were introduced to the magazine as if it could be deployed at that very moment.

NBC News isn’t saying just what kind of a problem it has. When asked for some information on the matter, a spokeswoman replied, “Decline to comment.” Efforts to reach Gregory directly also haven’t worked.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.