How The Gun Rights Community Quashes Any Public Dissent On Gun Policy
The firing of Guns & Ammo contributing editor Dick Metcalf for making the noncontroversial assertion that the ownership of firearms is subject to some regulation is indicative of how the gun rights community will railroad anyone who offers a modicum of dissent to the absolutist view of the Second Amendment.
On November 6, Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette announced that Metcalf would no longer write for the firearm publication. Metcalf's offense was a column in December's magazine that stated, "[W]ay too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be." In defense of laws requiring training before carrying a gun in public he wrote, “I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly.”
Bequette's groveling column, also appearing in the December issue of Guns & Ammo, offered “each and every reader a personal apology,” and stated, “Dick Metcalf has had a long and distinguished career as a gunwriter, but his association with 'Guns & Ammo' has officially ended.” Clarifying that the Guns & Ammo position is that the Second Amendment has "[n]o strings attached," Bequette wrote, “I made a mistake by publishing the column. I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness.”
Members of the gun rights community face attack for debating any regulation on firearms or expressing support for background checks on firearm sales, a position extremely popular with the American public.
In February, when Alan Gottlieb -- president and founder of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) -- expressed support for a modest Senate proposal to expand background checks to commercial gun sales -- he faced open revolt from the gun rights community.
Popular gun blogger Dave Workman summarized how Gottlieb was “suddenly a pariah” in a February 20 column for Examiner.com:
Tempers went ballistic in the firearms community Wednesday morning when the Seattle Times reported that gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb was negotiating with state lawmakers on so-called “universal background checks.”
On one forum, he was branded a “traitor.” On another, it was alleged that a “sell-out” is “in the works.” Elsewhere, one might think that Gottlieb was the anti-Christ. Even the Seattle Times reader section contains some nasty remarks.
Phones have been ringing non-stop at Gottlieb's Liberty Park complex since early Wednesday morning, and a stream of e-mails - many apparently written by people who did not read the Times article but only picked up on conversations on gun rights forums - have been stinging.
Now, because he has participated in a give-and-take discussion about background checks, he's suddenly a pariah.
Prior to the vote CCRKBA pulled support for the Senate proposal -- which was subsequently filibustered primarily by Senate Republicans -- and claimed that Democratic Senators had not kept up their end of a deal on support for the bill.
The most recent indications suggest that Gottlieb has fully returned his organization to its prior hardline stance. Media Matters reporter Alexander Zaitchik reported on October 8 that Gottlieb announced at the annual Gun Rights Policy Conference that CCRKBA and its sister organization Second Amendment Foundation would sponsor a “Guns Save Lives Day” on the one year anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The date was later moved to the day after the anniversary, December 15. According to the “Guns Save Lives Day” website, the event will promote a petition that demands the government “cease and desist all efforts to disarm or short-arm the American people by limiting and disparaging the Second Amendment.”
It is not unusual for a gun writer to lose his or her job for failing to toe the line in opposition to all gun regulations. In 2007, preeminent outdoor writer Jim Zumbo “offered to terminate his association” with Outdoor Life after writing on his blog that semi-automatic military-style rifles should not be used for hunting before branding that type of firearm a “terrorist” rifle. In a letter that resembles Guns & Ammo editor Bequette's apology, Outdoor Life editor-in-chief Todd Smith released a statement that declared, “Outdoor Life has always been, and will always be, a steadfast supporter of all aspects of the shooting sports and our Second Amendment rights, which do not make distinctions based on the appearance of the firearms we choose to own, shoot or hunt with.”
Zumbo's blog put his entire career as an outdoorsman -- including corporate relationships and a televised hunting show -- in jeopardy. As The Washington Post summarized, “Despite a profuse public apology and a vow to go hunting soon with an assault weapon, Zumbo's career appears to be over.” The Miami Herald wrote, “In what might be considered the fastest career collapse in history, Jim Zumbo - for decades one of the nation's most visible outdoor writers and broadcasters - has lost everything in a matter of only a few days.”
The National Rifle Association also cut ties with Zumbo, warning in a statement, “The ensuing wave of grassroots response in support of the Second Amendment is a clear indication that America's gun owners will act swiftly and decisively to counter falsehoods or misrepresentations perpetuated by any member of the media -- whether it is one of the major networks or a fellow gun owner.”
NRA board member Joaquin Jackson, a famous member of the Texas Rangers, continues to face calls for his removal from the organization's leadership after apparently suggesting in 2005 that assault weapons in civilian hands should be limited to a five round capability. As the controversy continued to brew in 2007, Jackson released a statement through the NRA Institute for Legislative Action where he claimed that he meant to say fully-automatic machineguns in civilian hands should be limited to five rounds per magazine. To this day, however, gun rights activists continue to call for his removal from the board of directors.