I have to say I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, I don’t believe it should be a crime for legal gun owners to carry a firearm on the National Mall. Period. Full stop.
On the other hand, I really hate it when law enforcement are held to a different standard than the general public, and I can’t help but feel like that’s the case here.
A federal law enforcement officer was arrested carrying a gun at Saturday’s rally at the U.S. Capitol billed to support the suspects charged in January’s insurrection but will not be prosecuted.
The 27-year-old New Jersey man is an officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He was arrested by Capitol Police for illegally possessing a gun on the grounds of the Capitol after people in the crowd reported seeing him with a handgun and notified nearby officers.
So much for the insurrectionist narrative set by the media. The attendees wanted to be on their best behavior to the point that some of them apparently alerted authorities to the guy with a gun. Unless of course, it was an “undercover” law enforcement agent who tipped off police.
"I enjoy being in a space where I can feel comfortable being who I am, which is totally not a fed." pic.twitter.com/Cf04RMqDRN
— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) September 18, 2021
Regardless of who pointed out the gun, the off-duty officer in question doesn’t have to worry about a federal prosecution.
Generally, under federal law, law enforcement officers are given reciprocity to legally carry their weapons in other states, even those with restrictive gun laws. But the law has an exemption for government property or military bases where it is illegal to carry a gun, like the U.S. Capitol.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington said prosecutors were “not moving forward with charges” but did not provide additional information about the decision.
Two law enforcement officials said the officer was not at the rally in any official capacity. The officials could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general was also notified of his arrest.
Again, I’d prefer that the prohibition on lawfully-owned firearms on federal property in D.C. disappear completely, but while it is in place I’d like to see the law be applied equally to all. This situation reminds me of the David Gregory incident back in 2013, when the NBC News host showed off a “high capacity” magazine on air; a magazine that NBC News knew was illegal to possess in the District.
Gregory was never arrested or charged with the crime, which carries up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, but an affidavit released Friday shows that’s exactly what local police recommended.
Wayne Gerrish, a Washington Metropolitan Police Department detective, wrote in the affidavit the snafu was no accident, and requested an arrest warrant.
NBC staff contacted police before the episode aired to share their plans and ask about the legality of showing the magazine, the affidavit says. Two emailed responses explained doing so would violate the law. One of the emails suggested using a photo instead.
In January 2013 the District’s attorney general, Irvin Nathan, decided not to bring charges against Gregory, despite what he called “the gravity of the illegal conduct in this matter.” At the time city officials would not say if detectives had endorsed bringing charges.
The blog Legal Insurrection promptly filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the detective’s affidavit. Judicial Watch, a conservative government transparency group, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the blog in May 2013.
It might be time for a FOIA request to the U.S. Attorney’s office to get more details on the decision not to charge the Border Patrol agent, though like the Gregory case, I doubt the government is going to willingly hand over any info absent a lawsuit.
While we don’t know for certain why the decision was made (though I think we all have a pretty good idea), does anyone have any doubt that if the gun owner wasn’t an off-duty officer, they would absolutely be facing charges right now? Instead of establishing a double standard when it comes to exercising our civil rights in our nation’s capitol, it would be great if we had one rule for all, and one that recognizes our Second Amendment rights as well.