The Wall Street Journal printed a bizarre editorial today in which it defended David Gregory on the grounds of press freedom against conservatives who have suggested he may have violated District of Columbia gun laws.
In challenging National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre, his guest on Meet the Press on Dec. 23, Gregory brandished a 30-round magazine, asking whether such weapons should be illegal. Such magazines, are, in fact, already illegal in the District of Columbia, where Gregory tapes Meet the Press at the NBC studios.
On Dec. 25, Breitbart News’ Warner Todd Huston broke the story that D.C. police were, in fact, investigating Gregory for violating local gun laws. Subsequently, the Legal Insurrection blog appeared to confirm that NBC and Gregory approached local police for permission to use the magazine on television, and had been refused. Since then, confusion has surrounded whether NBC received permission from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The government itself seems confused about what the gun laws are.
And that is partly the point of conservative criticism–to point out that gun control, as it already exists, ensnares otherwise law-abiding citizens in absurd and self-contradictory regulations. The other point is to illustrate that the mainstream media elite, and the liberal political forces it serves, want to apply one law to themselves and another to the rest of America. It is all right for Gregory to violate the law, but a private citizen might go to jail.
Somehow, the Journal missed the critique, and declared the whole exercise to be folly, in an editorial entitled “Free David Gregory.” According to the Journal editors, holding Gregory accountable is an exercise in hysteria:
This has created an uproar, with gun rights advocates calling for Mr. Gregory’s indictment, if not yet the death penalty, and police acknowledging their probe….
So here we have a possible indictment that would be entirely nonsensical of a journalist who was trying to embarrass an NRA official over an ammunition ban whose impact would be entirely symbolic….
It isn’t clear that Mr. Gregory is guilty of anything other than perhaps overzealousness in pursuit of the conventional gun-control wisdom, which is not a crime unless we want to empty newsrooms and fill up jails from coast to coast.
Asking Gregory to obey the laws he wishes to enforce on others is not an assault on press freedom. It is a cogent critique of an overzealous regulatory regime–the sort of critique the Journal itself makes on a variety of other issues, from banking to emissions.
What makes guns different may be the impression that gun control advocates are “bitter clingers,” perhaps at some sort of cultural remove from the Journal‘s editorial offices. In a similar vein, the Journal once mocked Tea Party activists as “Hobbits” for opposing Speaker of the House John Boehner’s debt ceiling deal–though the “Hobbits” may have been right.
If so, the Journal should check its elitism. It is not press freedom but the rule of law, as well as the Second Amendment, that are at stake.
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