Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Disturbing Story About Guns

By now, you all know that I'm a bluer than blue blue-stater who happens to have grown up in a redder than red enclave where hunting, fishing, and other forms of family bonding are very, very common.

I've argued before on this blog that our attitudes on guns have much more to do with geography than they do with ideology. Simply put: In rural areas, guns have different connotations than they do in urban areas.

I understand this. I even accept it.

But I'm very disturbed by this story in today's Washington Post. (The New York Times weighs in here.) Disturbed is not strong enough a word, actually. Horrified is more appropriate.

Here are the facts, as they've arrived:

1. Senator Jim Webb handed what may or may not be his pistol to a top aide as he arrived at the airport for a flight to New Orleans;
2. Senator Webb has a permit to carry a concealed weapon (he showed it pretty often on the campaign trail);
3. The aide put the pistol in a briefcase;
4. The briefcase and a few others got shuffled, and may have been shuffled among multiple vehicles;
5. The aide brought the briefcase into a Senate office building;
6. The mandatory X-Ray at security revealed what may or may not have been the Senator's loaded pistol in the briefcase, but it was definitely a loaded pistol.

Now, let's take it a couple of steps further. The spokeswoman for the Capitol Police Department, a Sergeant, said on the record that the aide was fully cooperative and that she didn't think the aide was out to harm anybody.

Nobody in Webb's office is saying whether or not the gun is Webb's, but the early news reports said it was Webb's gun. People seem to be in complete agreement that the gun did not belong to the aide, and the aide did not realize the gun was in the briefcase.

Webb's office called the incident a mistake, which is exactly what it is.

For this, the aide is charged with a felony and spent a night in jail because he wasn't licensed to carry the gun or the ammunition (and the gun was loaded, which is against Senate rules, apparently). Even though he had no idea he was even carrying the gun, which seems to belong to his boss, who is licensed to carry the gun.

I should note: Both Webb and his aide are Marine combat veterans. Webb is a marksman who used to teach marksmanship. His aide is a Desert Storm veteran.

In my time as a political operative, have I ever carried a bag for a candidate without knowing what was inside? Of course.

Have I ever mistakenly picked up the wrong bag? Of course.

I've even carried the wrong bag through a security checkpoint at a government building. I've left the wrong bag in the wrong car at the wrong time, and I've committed every variation of the same mistake.

Like I said, that's what this is: A mistake. Not even a stupid mistake. A very common mistake made every day by harried assistants and operatives trying to keep their bosses on schedule, on message and on friendly terms with constituents and reporters.

It's a mistake. It's a mistake I need not modify with another adjective.

Let's remember that the Capitol Police Sergeant who spoke about the case said the aide was cooperative and not out to harm anyone.

This may even have been a laughing matter, if, say, the aide had brought the wrong lunch to the office, or the wrong newspaper. And if he'd brought one of those two things, everyone would be calling this a mistake.

But a felony charge? Are they serious? That's not a mistake. That's an obscenity.

Adam

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6 Comments:

Blogger Catzmaw said...

Awesome analysis. Agree with you all the way. You've cut through the BS and straight to the point.

8:16 PM, March 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bothers me is that reporters have not hit on the other charges needed to be filed: Having a gun at the airport. Yes, on the grounds. Don't you recall that NOT ONLY were they banned until 2004 on airport property, you couldn't even have them on the Dulles Toll Road?

So why do our many investigative reporters not pursue this?

How about Benny Thompson, D-MS, the ranking majority member of Homeland Security, screaming about a Mississippi mayor visiting the Capitol just mistakenly getting an "armed" Law Enforcement sticker recently? Or how he screamed about the same mayor, who had Republican support, possibly carrying guns on airplanes?

Sort of like how Kennedy's aide could have TWO SUBMACHINE GUNS and a pistol.

But that's OK cause they are Democrats.

Here are the Airport Head's comments when they "relaxed" the laws at Dulles and Reagan in 2004.

Still a crime, EVEN FOR WEBB, to hand it off in the airport.

Where are you reporters????

From WAPO archives:
"To be clear, these new regulations prohibit the carrying of firearms and other dangerous weapons in terminal buildings at Dulles and Reagan National, on the airfields, and in any building bordering our secure aviation areas like cargo facilities, maintenance buildings, and administrative buildings. They are the strictest weapons regulations at any airport in Virginia."

Oh, great cover story, I gave him my briefcase NEAR the airport, and he just brought it in "inadvertently." I TOLD him to drop it at my bunker at the Militia
headquarters.

What militia? Oh, read Thompson's book review:

Phillip Thompson

"In his startling first novel, Enemy Within, Phillip Thompson wove together two central themes from his own background—his rearing in Mississippi and his service as a U.S. Marine. The book examines the frightening possibility of armed troops being dispatched to Mississippi to destroy an armed militia, a possibility some feel could happen sooner rather than later."

Yes, Left Wing Nut Jobs, Packing Heat against the Zionist Occupational Government.

MARINE: Muscles A Requirement Intelligence Not Essential.

Affirmative Defense: I was a Marine. I couldn't read those fancy signs about No Guns at the Capitol or Airport.

10:26 PM, March 27, 2007  
Blogger skinke said...

I'm not sure I follow this piece.

As far as I've worked out, the facts are:

A man tried to pass an x-ray scanner with a gun in his briefcase. That's illegal, right?

So I don't follow your "mistake" logic, because if it HAD been his lunch or a newspaper, then noone would have known.

A bigger question is: Why does the man whose gun it (allegedly) is, feel the need to carry a weapon around with him? And if his reasons are strong enough, why does he feel happy giving said weapon to an aide who may or may not take it into a building where it may or may not be x-rayed?

10:50 AM, March 28, 2007  
Blogger Adam Hurtubise said...

catzmaw--

Thanks.

Anon--

Your points are well taken, but you fail to account for the aide's intent. If he had intended to sneak an unlicensed, loaded gun into the building, I wouldn't have any problem with an arrest.

The facts, as we know them now, are clear that the aide did not intend to take the gun into the building, and did not realize he was doing so. Even the police acknowledge this.

I don't know whether the DC statute requires intent, but this morning's news reports indicate that other violators-- tourists-- have merely had their weapons confiscated because they didn't know that DC law bans possession of most firearms.

That, to me, says intent is central. Those folks actually intended to bring guns into the complex; they just didn't know it was a crime to do so. After explaining themselves, they weren't charged with felonies. They simply thought they had the same rights to carry that they had in their home jurisdictions.

Here you have the reverse: an aide who does know that it's a felony to bring a gun into the building, but who has no idea he's even carrying a gun.

To me, the tourist is more culpable than the aide because the tourist had the intent of carrying the gun into the building.

My point is that neither of them should have been arrested because neither intended to commit a crime.

I disagree with you about your Marine comment. That was gratuitous, wrong and insulting to people who have served.

I mentioned the fact that both Webb and his aide are Marine combat veterans to illustrate that they both know how to handle firearms.

Graeme--

You also raise an excellent point.

I think I addressed this in the comments above, to anon, but if the aide didn't realize he was carrying a gun into the building, he has no intent to commit a crime.

There's also a double standard because tourists find their guns taken away, but staffers find themselves charged with felonies.

Regardless of whether Webb should be carrying a loaded gun with him, it's his right.

11:18 AM, March 28, 2007  
Anonymous bmag aka erl said...

Adam, you are extremely smart and right on point!

Naw, like George Washington, I can't tell a lie. Adam asked me to post that! Sorry buddy, but if I can't give you a rash of the smelly brown stuff, no one can.

Joking aside, I'll admit I'm not following it very closely-I'm more interested in the US Attorney firings. Ha, ok I wasn't totally finished joking.

But I digress. I am of mixed feelings about this case. Yes, trying to gain access to a secure faciltiy armed, without authority to be armed even with no ill intent is wrong on some level. But yet like Adam, I've been a bagman for pols my whole life. So my other view is...there go I but for the grace of God. I agree that intent is critical to this case. But that's why we have courts, they get to sort all of this out. I will say, however, if its Sen. Webb's weapon, he needs to stand up and claim responsibility. It doesn't absolve his staffer totally, but does go to determining that staffers intent. Now if the staffer claims it was Sen. Webb's gun to avoid his own responsibility, then he should be nailed.

3:06 PM, March 28, 2007  
Anonymous jamie ford said...

That's nuts. When I travel I just stuff my Glock down my pants like normal people do.

10:52 PM, March 28, 2007  

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