Gun totin' aide to senator: Busted!
Sen. Webb backs aide with gun -- 'dangerous time' for politicians
Virginia Democrat strongly supports right to bear arms
Joel Havemann, Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
(03-28) 04:00 PDT Washington -- Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., one day after his aide's arrest for carrying a loaded pistol into a Senate office building, called the incident "unfortunate" Tuesday and offered a ringing endorsement of the right to bear arms.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Webb said, it has been "a more dangerous time" for people in government.
"I believe that it's important for me, personally, and for a lot of people in the situation that I am in, to be able to defend myself and my family," Webb told reporters in the Capitol. "I believe that wherever you see laws that allow people to carry (weapons), generally the violence goes down."
Webb's aide Phillip Thompson was arrested Monday when, according to Capitol police, he tried to enter a Senate office building with a loaded handgun and two magazines of ammunition.
Police said the weapon was inside a briefcase Thompson placed on an X-ray belt. Thompson said the gun and magazines belonged to Webb, although Webb said he had not given them to Thompson.
"The defendant further stated that he inadvertently left the gun" in the briefcase, the police report on the incident said.
Webb told reporters that he was in New Orleans at the time of the arrest. He described Thompson as "a longtime friend."
"He has worked for me since the beginning of the campaign last year," Webb said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I think this is one of those very unfortunate situations where, completely inadvertently, he took the weapon into the Senate."
Webb, Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan before switching parties and running as a Democrat for the Senate last year, said he had long held a permit in Virginia to carry a weapon.
Webb pointed out that police are assigned to protect the president and other high-ranking executive-branch officials but not members of Congress.
"We are required to defend ourselves, and I chose to do so," he said.
Thompson, whose 45th birthday was Monday, spent the night in a District of Columbia lockup and was freed without bond after appearing at a Superior Court hearing, where he was charged with one felony count of carrying a pistol without a license. Another court hearing was scheduled for May 1.
Thompson is a former writer and Marine who fought in the Gulf War, said Robert Hodierne, senior managing editor for Army Times Publishing Co., where Thompson used to work as an editor.
"He's a fine fellow," Hodierne said. "He's married with kids, a family man, a solid citizen."
Army Times, a Gannett Co. subsidiary, publishes four weekly newspapers covering the military: Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times. Most recently, Thompson worked as an editor in the features and lifestyle section that appeared in the papers, Hodierne said.
He left last March to work for the Webb campaign, Hodierne said. According to an online biography, Thompson is from Mississippi and is the author of two books: "Into the Storm," a memoir of his time in the Gulf War, and "The Enemy Within," a novel.
The Washington Post contributed to this report.