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19 February 2007 @ 09:49 pm
Watch what you say...  
Most anyone following the gun rights debate in the United States will probably have tripped across the Jim Zumbo incident over the week-end. If you haven't, I'll summarize. Mr. Zumbo, a long-time hunting writer and television show host, posted an entry about the use of AR-15 rifles for hunting in pretty inflammatory terms (e.g. "I call them 'assault' rifles, which may upset some people. Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles.") to his Outdoor Life magazine blog; his blog has since been removed by the editorial staff of the magazine. This resulted in a firestorm of negative comment on his words, both as comments in his blog (at last count, more than three thousand), threads on every major firearms forum I know of, and emails to the sponsors of his television show. As a result, many of these sponsors, including Remington and Cabela's, have dropped him. And, the Brady Campaign MySpace blog posted his entry under the title, "Even Remington's top gun writer agrees on Assault Weapons".

Now, I'm not going to comment on Mr. Zumbo's post except to say I accept his apology at face value, that he posted without thinking and out of ignorance. But, due to his prominence, the damage is done and there will rightly be consequences. He should have sat back, thought, and most importantly, learned about the AR-15.

What I really want to talk about is the class of response from the shooting community. Or, the complete and utter lack of it on the part of many. There were also many well thought out responses as well, but I think there were too many calling the man a "traitorous bitch" or a "Quisling mouthpiece for the anti-gun lobby". Such posts are counterproductive and, I think, only serve to reinforce the stereotype of gun owners (and particularly military style rifle owners) as reactionary redneck yahoos, so narrow minded that no dissension can be tolerated.

There's one other category of response I also take issue with. Not because these are rude ad hominem attacks like the above but because they provide ammunition to the opposition. I speak of those satirical paraphrasings of Mr. Zumbo's entry that portray scoped hunting rifles as "evil sniper rifles" or "military-grade sniper rifles". While we in the firearms community may recognize these as satire, those opposed might just grab on these as serious material. They did. The next post on the Brady Campaign's MySpace page after the Zumbo piece attacked the "sniper rifles" used in hunting mixed with hyperbole such as "shooting through six police cars" and "enabling [snipers] to engage targets at distances of well over one hundred meters". Another choice quote is, "Any rifle configured and equipped as a sniper rifle has no sporting purpose especially as a hunting rifle.". They go on to list "223, 308, 7mm mauser, 30-06, and 6.5x55" as unsuitable for hunting. Yes, their ignorance of the issue is laughable, but those they are trying to convince are just as ignorant. And, to the ignorant, our satire often seems a well reasoned argument against firearm rights.

Please, when responding to perceived attacks on the Second Amendment, think before you hit that "Post" button and do us all a favor.
(Deleted comment)
spoe: gunsspoe on February 20th, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
Original post (3.9 MB PDF)
Apology (2.0 MB PDF)

Most of the really nasty comments were posted on the various fora.
ext_33708 on February 20th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
Zumbo fiasco

I'd like to congratulate you on writing one of the very few blog pieces concerning this unfortunate situation that I have read and agree with. I was not a faithful follower of Jim Zumbo's work, disagree with what he said, and am more than a little disconcerted by the response he received. Clearly he has committed a major act of career suicide. I don't own, nor is it likely that I ever will own, one of the class of firearms he addressed. That said I see no point in condemning their use.

My concern, much like yours, is the damage that has been done by those who effectively called for his public execution. Gun control, in any form, is a passionate issue. In order to be successful our arguments must be dispassionate, clinical, well considered, and well delivered. I am very concerned that the persona of the American gun owner will not be enhanced by the public tirade that we have recently witnessed. Pyrrhic victories are not in the best interest of sustainable growth.

I personally have come to conclude that the message that the gun advocates should focus on and reinforce is the definition of what constitutes an assault weapon. If it isn't fully automatic then it's NOT.

Again, congratulations on your insight.