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Props work.

That’s one lesson from Sunday’s airing of “Meet the Press,” in which David Gregory of NBC News conducts a tough, fair interview with Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Deep into the discussion, Gregory pulled out what appeared to be an authentic weaponry component and said this:

So 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 in 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?

LaPierre issued this newsworthy response:

I don’t believe that’s going to make one difference. There are so many different ways to evade that, even if you had that. You had that for ten years when Dianne Feinstein passed that ban in ’94. It was on the books. Columbine occurred right in the middle of it. It didn’t make any difference. I know everybody — that this town wants to argue about gun control. I don’t think it’s what will work. What will work is this. I’ll tell you this.

The excellent broadcasting moment, however, may come at a price. Various news accounts, including this Politico piece, are reporting that the D.C. Police Department is investigating whether the display of the magazine in the D.C. studios of “Meet the Press” may have violated the laws of the District of Columbia, which outlaw magazines of capacities greater than 10 rounds. As quoted Sunday by Legal Insurrection, here’s D.C. Official Code 7-2506.01:

b) No person in the District shall possess, sell, or transfer any large capacity ammunition feeding device regardless of whether the device is attached to a firearm. For the purposes of this subsection, the term “large capacity ammunition feeding device” means a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The term “large capacity ammunition feeding device” shall not include an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.

The District was forced by a high-profile 2008 Supreme Court decision to legalize handgun ownership. Following that case, the city promulgated handgun-permitting regulations but maintained its standing as the upholder of some of the most restrictive firearms controls in the country. And that brings up the puzzling aspect of this “Meet the Press” incident: How did NBC News handle the prop? Where did it acquire the thing? Did it consult with D.C. police?

NBC News has declined to respond to requests for comment on the incident.

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