week ago on NBC’s Meet the Press, David Gregory brandished on screen a high-capacity magazine. To most media experts, a “high-capacity magazine” means an ad-stuffed double issue of Vanity Fair with the triple-page perfume-scented pullouts. But apparently in America’s gun-nut gun culture of gun-crazed gun kooks, it’s something else entirely, and it was this latter kind that Mr. Gregory produced in order to taunt Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. As the poster child for America’s gun-crazed gun-kook gun culture, Mr. LaPierre would probably have been more scared by the host waving around a headily perfumed Vanity Fair. But that was merely NBC’s first miscalculation. It seems a high-capacity magazine is illegal in the District of Columbia, and the flagrant breach of D.C. gun laws is now under investigation by the police.
This is, declared NYU professor Jay Rosen, “the dumbest media story of 2012.” Why? Because, as CNN’s Howard Kurtz breezily put it, everybody knows David Gregory wasn’t “planning to commit any crimes.”
So what? Neither are the overwhelming majority of his fellow high-capacity-magazine-owning Americans. Yet they’re expected to know, as they drive around visiting friends and family over Christmas, the various and contradictory gun laws in different jurisdictions. Ignorantia juris non excusat is one of the oldest concepts in civilized society: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Back when there was a modest and proportionate number of laws, that was just about doable. But in today’s America there are laws against everything, and any one of us at any time is unknowingly in breach of dozens of them.