Webb Aide Tried To Take Gun Into Senate Building, Capitol Police Say

Sen. James Webb, an advocate of gun rights, did not comment on the incident, but a spokeswoman called it
Sen. James Webb, an advocate of gun rights, did not comment on the incident, but a spokeswoman called it "an oversight by the Senator's aide." (By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)
By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A top aide to Sen. James Webb was charged yesterday with trying to carry a loaded pistol and extra ammunition into a Senate office building, U.S. Capitol Police said.

The staffer, Phillip Thompson, told police that the gun belonged to Webb (D-Va.), authorities said. Thompson also said he forgot that the gun was in a briefcase and meant no harm, they said.

Thompson, 44, a longtime friend of Webb's and the senator's executive assistant, was jailed pending an appearance today in D.C. Superior Court. He was charged with carrying a pistol without a license and possessing an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition.

The gun was discovered at 10:30 a.m. when Thompson arrived at the C Street entrance of the Russell Senate Office Building, according to Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman. An X-ray machine revealed the gun in a briefcase. Police also found two fully loaded magazines, officials said.

"I don't think he intended to harm anybody," Schneider said. "He was quite cooperative."

A Senate official familiar with the incident said Webb gave the gun to Thompson as Thompson drove the senator to an airport earlier in the day. When Thompson arrived at the Senate building, he forgot he was carrying the weapon, the official said.

Another source said that Webb's gun was in a briefcase that was supposed to be dropped off at a location in Virginia before Thompson came into the District.

D.C. law bars people from carrying handguns and concealed weapons without licenses.

Webb, a first-term senator and former Marine, regularly uses a gun for target practice at the National Rifle Association shooting range, the source said. Webb was an expert marksman as a Marine and once taught marksmanship using a .45-caliber handgun, the source said. It is not clear how regularly Webb carries a concealed weapon while in Virginia.

Webb, an advocate of gun rights, declined to comment on the case or explain whether he wanted the gun in the Russell building. During his campaign last year, Webb pulled out a permit to carry a concealed weapon as a sign of his commitment to the right to bear arms.

His communications director, Jessica Smith, sent out a prepared statement saying the episode was a mistake.

"To our knowledge, this incident was an oversight by the Senator's aide," Smith said. "Phillip Thompson is a former Marine, a long-term friend and trusted employee of the Senator. We are still awaiting facts."

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