January 23, 2013
Two Firearms-Related Misdemeanors
By David E. Petzal
This is all about two infractions of the law, both marginally involving firearms, but with different outcomes.
On Jan. 8, Estelle Margolis, an 86-year-old resident of Norwalk, Connecticut, attended a Westport, Connecticut town meeting on gun control. She carried with her a Red Ryder BB Gun, wrapped in a white cloth, a package of pellets, and a box of .45 ammo. The BB gun was spotted; the police were summoned; and Ms. Margolis was arrested and charged with breach of peace, second degree. The point she wanted to make, she said, was how easy it was to buy a gun.
Said the Westport Police: “Regardless of what her reasoning was to bring the BB gun rifle [sic] to the meeting, it was a poor decision that created alarm and concern to the public. This incident could clearly have escalated into a tragedy.”
Ms. Margolis has since pled not guilty to the charge against her. She will have her next court date on Feb. 20.
The second infraction of the law was committed by David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.” In a Dec. 23 interview with Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, Gregory brandished a 30-round magazine, despite warnings that it was illegal for him to possess it. Doing so is a misdemeanor, carrying with it a sentence of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
When viewers demanded that the District’s law be enforced, the police conducted a 3-week investigation. It was not disclosed whether they recommended bringing charges, but D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, citing “prosecutorial discretion,” declined to do so. Bringing Gregory to court, he said, “…would not promote public safety in the District of Coumbia, nor serve the best interests of the people.”
Erika Masonhall, director of communications for NBC News, said in a statement that Gregory “…displayed the empty magazine for solely for journalistic purposes to help illustrate an important issue for our viewers. We accept the District of Columbia Attorney General’s admonishment, respect his decision, and will have no further comment on this matter.”
Also declining comment were D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, David Gregory, and myself.