Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly reported that the guns Gilbert Arenas brought to Verizon Center were properly registered in Virginia. Virginia does not require registration of handguns or long guns.

Guns in the locker

Thursday, December 31, 2009

PERHAPS THE situation is as innocent as described by Gilbert Arenas. Newly sensitized by the birth of his daughter to the danger of having guns around his house, the Washington Wizards star says he meant no harm when he brought the unloaded weapons to Verizon Center for safekeeping. But, in doing so, it seems that Mr. Arenas might have run afoul of D.C. law -- and it's important that authorities do their job investigating the matter.

D.C. police officials confirmed Tuesday that they are assisting the U.S. attorney's office with a probe into the circumstances under which Mr. Arenas brought guns to the arena. The incident occurred on or about Dec. 10 and was disclosed on Christmas Eve, when reported that the NBA was looking into the matter. The league prohibits weapons at its sports facilities; more critically, D.C. law strictly prohibits the carrying of guns, either openly or concealed.

Mr. Arenas has said he wasn't aware of the law and that he turned the guns over to team security with instructions to give them to the police. Why Mr. Arenas didn't choose a more straightforward method of relinquishing the weapons, and why he held the guns in his Verizon Center locker for a week, are some of the questions authorities need to get answered. D.C. officials say that it's not unusual for people, mainly out-of-town tourists, to unwittingly violate the city's gun laws, believing (wrongly) that there is no harm as long as the weapons are unloaded. Generally, they end up charged with a misdemeanor.

Mr. Arenas's celebrity should neither shield him nor make him a target for exaggerated penalties. It might, though, help him in delivering an important message about guns being neither glamorous nor desirable. "I don't need these anymore," he said of his weapons. That's something we hope his young fans hear.

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