David Gregory’s crime

If gun-rights advocates don’t want to be called “gun nuts,” perhaps they might consider acting sanely every once in a while, just to keep in practice.

I see all Red Blogistan wants to see David Gregory in prison for showing a high-capacity magazine on television. Seems DC gun laws forbid the clips, even disconnected from any guns. Putting aside the question of whether there’s any admissible evidence of a crime – which there probably isn’t unless Gregory held on to the object, since he can’t be compelled to testify and there’s no proof that it was in fact a magazine rather than, say, a plastic model of one – I’m stunned by the sheer viciousness displayed in the whole affair.

Do you recall the demands that George H.W. Bush be imprisoned for cocaine possession when he showed a baggie of crack on TV? Neither do I.

Gregory isn’t alone, of course: the same crowd is chortling over the “petition” to deport Piers Morgan for the unforgiven sin of blasphemy against the Holy Firearm. If gun-rights advocates don’t want to be called “gun nuts,” perhaps they might consider acting less insanely. Eugene Volokh shows them how. But so far his voice of reason is a lonely one.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

55 thoughts on “David Gregory’s crime”

  1. It’s possible to understand the calls for deportation as a reductio ad absurdam, responding to a call for removing the protections of the second amendment with a call for removing the protections of the first. Similarly, the calls for prosecution over the magazine could be taken as a critique of existing bad gun laws.

    Regrettably, it’s not plausible in either case – tone and intent matter, and the emphasis seems to be on punishment, not persuasion. Nor is there any way obvious to me to take the viciousness out of the dialogue, and so we’re stuck with the follies above, the Gannett idiocy below.

  2. A bit of scrutiny was all it took to expose Wayne LaPierre for the buffoon that he is. As Justice Brandeis observed, sunlight is the most powerful of all disinfectants.

  3. It’s simple, Mark. David Gregory is a member of the media. The media is liberal. Therefore, he is an enemy of the Conservative movement.

      1. Ah. You have proof that the magazine was real and not a plastic replica. How much have you contributed to the RNC’s legal offense fund to see this heinous crime of ‘education’ or ‘enlightening the public’ be punished in a court of law?

        1. I think that would be an excellent defense for him to raise, were it true. But I seriously doubt this was the case, as they apparently sought retroactive approval of the AFT. (Which was legally pointless, in as much as the ATF can’t authorize you to violate a local law, but it does indicate they thought they were guilty.)

          1. Your so-called ‘libertarian’ sympathies are as deep as your reasoning and sense of justice.

          2. Enlightening. I can imagine your rage at the blatant not-true waving of the Yellowcake as an excuse to spend The Market’s blood and treasure in a folly. Nevertheless, you haven’t told us how much your sense of justice compels you to contribute to the RNC for Gregory’s prosecution for this heinous crime of ‘education’ or ‘enlightening the public’.

          3. Are you more or less metaphysically certain that David Gregory had a real clip than whether Obama was born in these United States, considering you were not physically present to witness either of these events, and your past statement about your lack of metaphysical certitude about the latter event?

      2. Obviously, you want to see George HW Bush arrested for waving a bag of crack on the TV; George W Bush arrested for illegally possessing an unlicensed firearm in DC (Saddam’s handgun); Colin Powell arrested for waving a vial of anthrax at the UN; etcetera, etcetera.

        David Gregory is a tool, and a fool, and no-one on the left has any particular interest in his doings. But the contrived outrage on the right is ridiculous.

        1. I’d have been delighted; If you haven’t noticed, I’m in favor of drug re-legalization, I’d love to see a drug warrior hoist by his own petard that way.

  4. These folks are the American version of the authoritarian nihilists of the right who did so much damage to Europe in the years after WWI. They are not friends of truth, morality, or democracy, and worship only power, whether in spiritual or secular form. They need to be denounced at every opportunity.

  5. It takes a lot to make me feel any sympathy for Piers Morgan, but the right wing mass-murder-by-gun jihad have achieved it and then some.

    I am, as always, amused by the rapidity with which the self-proclaimed party of freedom reveals itself to be the party of thuggish, ignorant tyranny on any issue you care to name. Dancin’ Dave’s moment of journalism isn’t quite as good as Rachel Ray’s headscarf, but it’s enough to be going on with.

  6. Who the hell needs “testimony”? The violation took place on national TV. He could take a vow of eternal silence, and if not protected by selective prosecution, still be routinely convicted on the basis of witness testimony and video evidence. Just how carefully do you have to have avoided the evidence in this case, to have not seen him, yes, holding onto the magazine?

    The point of prosecuting him is that he broke a law he wants others prosecuted for breaking. That, if Wayne LaPierre had brought it in, HE damned well would have been prosecuted, and you’d all be gleeful over it.

    It is becoming a routine part of American life to have oppressive laws which get enforced against the peons like me, and not against the pigs, who are more equal than everybody else. That the law gets enforced against you if your violation furthers the government’s policies, but not if you oppose them. Even if you just oppose them in a discussion.

    Selective prosecution his how you grease the gears of a police state. Don’t defend it.

    As for Piers Morgan, his behavior was beyond tacky, but he did nothing deportable. Completely different set of circumstances. Gregory violated a law on national TV, a law you folks wouldn’t blink at having enforced against somebody you thought an opponent instead of an ally.

    He didn’t hurt anybody in doing this? So freaking what? You’d gladly prosecute people who didn’t hurt anybody. MOST of the people you want to lean on with gun laws aren’t hurting anybody! That’s not what’s driving the determination that he be let alone. Only the fact that he did it to further your cause, not somebody else’s. And that is as far from a legitimate reason for not enforcing the law as you can get.

    1. “That the law gets enforced against you if your violation furthers the government’s policies, but not if you oppose them.”

      So pissed off over the lousy, “people on my side are above the law” reasoning here, that I got that backwards. The law routinely gets enforced against people who dare to oppose it, but people who support the law get to violate it.

    2. interesting.

      although i could pick at some of the rhetorical asides in your 3:34 comment as amended by your 3:37 comment, i agree with much of it. i absolutely agree that selective prosecution is bad policy. i would add that mr. kleiman’s gregory/bush comparison fails because the situation of a television host holding an illegal object in national view is too different from that of a sitting president holding an illegal object in national view even if their motives for doing such a thing were similar.

      here’s what i’m curious about– if mr. gregory is prosecuted and found guilty i could certainly see the aclu either participating in the appeals directly or with amicus briefs based on first amendment grounds but what about the nra? do you think they, too, would file briefs on behalf of mr. gregory on 2nd amendment grounds? and if they did, would the tone of the opinions put forth from red blogistan change?

      1. I think that the NRA might actually do exactly that, if only for the opportunity to really twist the knife. He’d make an excellent test case for fighting the law.

        “Red blogistan” is pissed that Gregory benefits from selective prosecution of a law he supports. They’d be happy to see him fight to have the law overturned, as opposed to fighting to have it simply not enforced in his particular case.

      2. Selective prosecution is the reality. It is called prosecutorial discretion: a prosecutor has the responsibility to bring charges if she believes a crime has been committed and to not bring charges if she does not believe a crime has been committed.

        It is not supposed to be a matter of “my side” or “their side”, but unfortunately it does (with bad prosecutors or prosecutors influenced by corrupt politicians) often come down to that.

    3. That the presumed offense took place on national TV is not evidence in and of itself. You can see illegal items on TV regularly on cop shows and such: they are called props.

      That does not mean that he did indeed use a prop instead of an actual magazine; just that “the violation taking place on national TV” does not constitute proof. Otherwise, you’d have to prosecute the entire A-Team cast.

      1. It’ll be interesting to see if Gregory defends himself by saying, “I didn’t break the law. I was lying on national television.” For my part, I seriously doubt that he was lying.

        1. That’s not how it works. He has no obligation to mount an affirmative defense. The prosecution needs to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

          Note that I’m not saying that he’s innocent or guilty (I have no idea). I was merely discussing why it is doubtful that the video of the show by itself is sufficient to secure a conviction, even absent any exculpatory circumstances.

          1. He waved around an illegal article, and said it was the illegal article, in front of witnesses. That’s plenty of evidence right there. People have been sent to prison on less.

          2. I’m in agreement with Brett on the tape as proof issue. In any case like this the test of the strength of evidence is, can a prosecutor convince a judge or jury of the validity of their case/evidence. I think it would be highly unlikely that a judge or jury would dismiss the tape described (I haven’t seen it) as anything but physical evidence of Mr. Gregory holding contraban.

          3. I’m going to throw on here that all prsecution is selective. It would be impossible to prosecute every crime that comes to light and prosecutors must choose which cases merit attention. Certainly that choice is sometimes made with flawed motives but so turns the world. It’s not like the man outed a CIA agent or oversaw torture. We would all agree that those are crimes worthy of prosecution. Right?

  7. I’m beginning to wonder if all these gun posts are useful. Its not that I disagree with the majority of the posts and comments–my opinion of gun nuts is pretty low; I support fairly strict gun control; I think Heller is shoddy legal work. (OTOH, I do believe that the Second Amendment should have some implications for individual rights.)

    My problem is that, at least on this blog, posts and comments on guns tend to bring out the worst tribal instincts on both sides. I didn’t mind that too much during the election, but thought that it would go away afterwards. It hasn’t. Wingnut bashing is fun, but I can get better wingnut bashing elsewhere. Electoral politics can be entertaining, but the horserace coverage here is at best derivative. Trolling and countertrolling in the comments section gets to be a drag, especially given the high quality of our commenters when more productively engaged. I would rather view this blog in terms of its strengths: as predominantly a policy analysis blog, with a moderate left-of-center tilt.

    1. It’s not all that moderate, actually, but I’ll agree it’s not Crooked Timber.

      Don’t worry, the gun posts will taper off; It’s already becoming obvious that the moment has passed, and the anti-gunners didn’t manage to stampede people into doing something stupid before they began thinking rationally again. About all that’s going to come of it is that a few schools are looking to arm some of their teachers.

      We can now get pack to serious topics like $1,000,000,000 coins, and why the President is entitled to usurp legislative powers if Congress doesn’t pass laws he wants.

      1. Where “doing something stupid” means “imposing the slightest legal regulations of the sort regularly required for far less dangerous implements that are not similarly religious icons to which blood sacrifice must be paid”.

    2. Ebenezer, I agree with you completely. Except this post really isn’t about guns.
      It’s about the stunning optics: Tribalism totally trumping truth.
      As noted below: If this were Palin being investigated for holding a clip they’d be screaming murder in the opposite direction.

      There is absolutely no integrity on display here.
      This may be the right’s most: Morally. Bankrupt moment. Ever.
      It’s like watching some kind of cross between zombies, hyenas, piranhas, and testosterone.

      How could Mark resist that?

      1. It’s more than tribalism, I think.

        There is also this weird desire for draconian punishments for an offense that should in the worst case result in a fine (and yes, even if it had been Wayne LaPierre or Sarah Palin waving an empty gun magazine around on national TV). Or, in the case of Piers Morgan, for not breaking any law at all [1]. It’s a mob mentality. The modern day version of à la lanterne, if you will.

        For what it’s worth, while we’re seeing it primarily out of the tea party crowd at the moment, it’s a form of populism that can be observed across the political spectrum.

        And it’s related to why we have insane three-strike laws and overcrowded prisons and a war on drugs (rather than an anti-drug policy) and DAs focusing their political campaigns around successful death penalty convictions. Some need to satisfy a populist, primeval bloodlust.

        [1] Last I checked, being an unlikeable jerk is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor.

  8. I’m stunned by the sheer viciousness displayed in the whole affair.

    They were just severely rebuked in a national election. I expect nothing else from that crowd and the base (and I do mean ‘base’).

  9. First,please stop responding to Brett. He doesn’t controbute anything.

    Second: “I’m stunned by the sheer viciousness displayed in the whole affair.”

    Two words: Erik Loomis.

    1. i almost never do this but i will defend mr. bellmore’s 3:34/3:37 comments, at least in its main argument against selective prosecution. i am; however, interested in his response to the question i posed which goes to the hypocrisy angle mr. kleiman was working with in his original post.

      1. Is this not a form of hypocrisy the left is equally guilty of in the case of Mr. O’Keefe? Who, not one bit less for journalistic purposes, harmlessly violated a law, was prosecuted to the delight of the left, and unlike Gregory, had to plead to a minor offense, instead of being completely let off. For acts no less journalistic, and frankly, no less honest than, say, some of Dan Rather’s escapades.

        1. WTF? Known fabricator O’Keefe committed fraud and violated a bunch of laws in the process of tapping a Senator’s office phone system. And O’Keefe has never to my knowledge committed an act of journalism in his life. Pray tell which of “Dan Rather’s escapades” was even misleading, let alone criminally fraudulent. And, no, Rather being too eager to believe in and therefore falling for fabricated documents that appeared to offer sexy and quotable new documentation of the essentially undisputed fact that Dubya went AWOL from the cushy gig he used to duck out on a war he supported is not the same sort of thing.

          1. “Pray tell which of “Dan Rather’s escapades” was even misleading, let alone criminally fraudulent”

            Setting aside his use of forged documents, which I suppose liberals will always insist were “fake, but accurate”?

            “The Wall Within”, where Rather interviewed fake Vietnam vets?

            How about starting off his career with a lie?

            O’Keefe doesn’t do anything which wouldn’t be the stuff of normal investigative journalism, and lauded, if the ideology of the targets were different.

          2. That would be James “rapist wannabe” O’Keefe? James “fake voter fraud” O’Keefe? James O’Keefe isn’t remotely a journalist – he’s a provocateur and propagandist who cobbles together misleading video and attempts to con his victims into endorsing his own criminal activity.

          3. RE the Forged Dubya Documents: they were apparently indeed forgeries; they were concocted to dramatize, market, or otherwise capitalize on a fairly clear case that Dubya went AWOL; the motives for their forging and the parties responsible remain unclear, with theories that include a sincere if misguided attempt to bring attention to the issue, an attempt to somehow cash iny, or an attempt to discredit anyone who asked why Dubya went AWOL; and (the only thing relevant here) so far as I know there’s no reason to think Rather (or, more importantly, Rather’s staff who did the work and wrote his scripts) knew they were forgeries.

            The other incidents you cite are more troubling (the one you hyperlink especially; in the other case it’s again unclear whether Rather was credulous and perhaps lazy, instead of complicit). But none of your concerns – however valid – about Rather’s ethics or honesty make lawbreaking in pursuit of falsehood and to victimize people (as O’Keefe does) right. Holding up an extended magazine or a prop version to dramatize a discussion about their civilian use is cheesy, and possibly technically illegal, but it isn’t dishonest or otherwise malign, the way that tapping a Senator’s office in the middle of a Federal Building is.

          4. It’s true that simply holding up a magazine is harmless. That’s the point! D.C.’s gun laws, the kind of laws Gregory was holding up that magazine to promote, make harmless acts into felonies.. That he meant to harm nobody by doing it is precisely irrelevant to the application of the law, which has nothing to do with harming people. The law was specifically intended to make the technical act of possession a crime, completely apart from any intent to cause harm.

            I get a lot of grief here for insisting that the law has to be impartially enforced. I keep getting Anatole France quoted at me: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

            But this case points up the importance of impartial enforcement of the law: It’s not the poor who get a pass when violating the law, if it’s not enforced impartially. It’s just precisely the rich, the Gregories of the world, who benefit from selective prosecution.

            I don’t want people to be able to advocate laws, and get a pass when they violate them. And that’s what’s going on here: Gregory unambiguously, (Despite the desperate hope, against all evidence, that he used a prop.) publicly, violated the sort of law almost everybody here wants.

            And yet, because he’s your guy, you don’t want the law enforced. Screw that. Prosecute Gregory, or leave us alone.

          5. It’s a bite more complicated than that, Brett.

            First of all, while we have a victimless crime in this case (though not all violations of the statute are necessarily victimless), this does not render the statue pointless. The statute exists, presumably, to limit the market in high capacity magazines. This is not in and of itself a silly rationale. Also, it doesn’t make harmless acts into felonies. Under DC law, this is a misdemeanor, not a felony, as I understand it, and it is arguable whether it criminalizes harmless acts.

            Also, as with any other criminal statute, this one criminalizes a spectrum of offenses, which is why there’s a matching spectrum of penalties, from a minimal fine up to a $1000 fine and a year of imprisonment, where the upper end is reserved for the more serious type of offense and the lower end for the less serious ones. There’s a difference between (1) possessing a gun magazine to show it on TV, (2) selling one, knowing it is likely to be used, and (3) actually using one.

            So, the rational expectation is that this should result in a small fine (assuming he actually broke the law), commensurate with the severity of the offense.

            By the way, I don’t think anybody is “hoping” for it to be a prop. Some of us were pointing out that without being able to prove that it wasn’t a replica, the prosecution may have difficulties securing a conviction.

        2. i agree with warren terra, o’keefe is a poor example of your point regarding hypocrisy mr. bellmore and his actions are hardly commensurable with those of rather.

  10. Look, if David Gregory broke a law, he should be convicted for it. It will only expose the moral hypocrisy of a nation that allows millions to stockpile Bushmaster rifles and frangible or hollow-point bullets without consequence, but will convict a member of the media for holding an empty clip in order to make a point.

    It’s telling tha Brett Bellmore is such a stickler for the exact laws we have when it’s convenient to his point, but decries government overreach in so many other cases.

      1. I guess it is a matter of context for some. If Gregory was Palin, and had tits and painted red lips, a petition to exonerate her would be all the rage. True gun nuts, as opposed to the drugstore Fox News kind, don’t need the gal to get off. Just the scent of magazine makes us drool. This “situational gun ethics” should make all true conservatives ill.

      2. That the NRA isn’t defending Gregory is all you need to know: they are twisting some arms to get their opponents to shut up.

    1. Scratch more than one ‘libertarian’ and you find an authoritarian lurking whose real motives are essentially “Since neither I nor those like me can be king, no one else should be in a position to make law.”

      This is why the ONLY people I have ever heard defend slavery, other than a drunk Arkansas Republican relative, have been libertarians – if the person ‘voluntarily’ sold themselves into slavery.

  11. Normally I would agree that showing a piece of equipment whether gun related or not should not be the basis for a discussion. However, when there are kids who get suspended for bringing a miniature toy gun to school because of zero tolerance, it does become story when an adult does the same but doesn’t get punished. It doesn’t say what his political affiliation is, but this student was arrested for http://www.telegram.com/article/20121226/NEWS/121229778/1116 what was essentially movie props because of a picture he posted to Facebook. That is the point even if it isn’t well made.

  12. The thing is: David Gregory and Piers Morgan are horrible journalists. In fact I am not sure they are REAL journalist. Mostly they are just idiots who have a soapbox. So defending them is cringe-inducing. But, yeah, the other guys are worse.

  13. I think I’m gonna add a prediction to my list as it stands right now (#1 is that the first presidential debate of a cycle will, from now on to forever, not be taken lightly by either candidate and will likely be the only one that matters) to say that the White House petition site will never be duplicated. What a STUPID idea! Just take a read through it and you have to wonder why they didn’t foresee this kind of dumb@$$ness to begin with.

    1. I disagree. I think the mechanism may be a little too trivial right now, but it’s useful to see what questions are bubbling up from the masses, what sort of things people can get organized around. Some of them are jokes (Build A Death Star!), some are symptoms (Secede!), but it’s not hard to respond to those appropriately. Remember: it’s 25,000 signatures to get a response, not to get assent.

      1. “Remember: it’s 25,000 signatures to get a response, …”

        However, currently unknown if and when a response will be forth coming for a number of petitions.

        1. Hopefully we’re not paying anybody to “respond” because it would be a total waste of time. No response to these silly things is the correct response.

          1. No meaningful response is the intended response. The White House petition site is the equivalent of a whistle on the top of a pressure cooker: It’s noisy and meaningless, but the point is that it relieves the pressure inside. It was never intended as anything more than a way for people to vent.

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