By Jorge Amselle
Every now and again someone who is involved in the gun industry, either as a writer or manufacturer, says something that sets the gun owning community on fire. The most recent example of this is long time gun writer and TV show host Dick Metcalf. He had the temerity to question if maybe some regulation of firearms could possibly be reasonable. To make matter worse he did this in an extensive editorial in one of the oldest and most widely circulated gun magazines, Guns and Ammo.
Before I delve into his arguments let me clarify that any hint of accommodation or acknowledgement that anything gun related should/could be somehow regulated in any way shape or form whatsoever is poison to the most active elements of the gun owning community. Needless to say the most active gun owners are also the ones who buy and read the gun magazines and buy most of the guns and products advertised therein.
Just a few months ago the editor of RECOIL magazine was forced to step down after he indicated that maybe civilians didn’t need to own full auto machineguns. A few years ago another well-established gun writer named Jim Zumbo was pilloried, flayed and otherwise excommunicated for suggesting that ARs were not proper hunting guns because of the way they look and the message this sends to non-gun owners.
Bill Ruger, one of the preeminent gun designers of our time and founder of Sturm, Ruger and Co. (a very large publically traded firearms manufacturer) was subject to harsh criticism and boycotts for suggesting that he would not sell high capacity magazines to civilians. More recently Smith & Wesson, one of the oldest gun companies in the world, was almost driven out of business by a consumer boycott for making nice-nice with then President Bill Clinton’s gun control scheme.
Metcalf argues that the second amendment does not mean that people can own guns with no regulation. He says the word “regulation” is right there—of course when the amendment was written “regulation” meant something entirely different. He argues that all constitutional freedoms are limited in some ways including freedom of speech and religion. Then he makes the terrible mistake of comparing owning a gun to driving a car (you don’t need a license, registration, insurance, seat belts, headlights or anything else to own or drive a car on private property).
Finally he specifically cites the example of his home state of Illinois which was recently forced by the Federal courts to allow for concealed carry. He endorses the 16 hour training regimen the state is mandating, which many people feel is both excessive and unnecessary and far exceeds the requirements of most other states. The reaction to his apostasy was incredibly swift. Within days the gun blogs lit up with a fusillade condemning him and threatening full scale boycotts of the magazine and their advertisers. Metcalf was immediately fired and his editor who published the opinion piece replaced after a public apology.
Of course Metcalf was there for all the previous incidents and he must have known the reaction he would receive, so why did he intentionally step into a bear trap? I have not spoken with him but I believe that he is sincere in his feelings and probably has been keeping them hidden away from some time. I blame it on “Old Man Syndrome” when you get to a certain age that you just don’t care what anyone else thinks and you are beyond the point where anyone can do anything to you. I imagine it has to be very liberating to let loose like that (I myself have many years to go still).
From a legal perspective Metcalf is correct. The Supreme Court clearly endorsed all manner of gun restrictions and regulations (short of a ban) when they upheld the individual right to own a gun. But the most active gun owners aren’t arguing the law they are arguing policy and what the law should be. Here we are dealing with matters of opinion and Metcalf is entitled to his. For the record I completely disagree and don’t think there should be any restrictions on the private ownership of any type of weapon from rocks to nukes. I got to make a living at this you know.
The sad part and the main reason gun aficionados are upset, is that Metcalf’s meanderings on “reasonable” gun control will only serve to provide ammunition to those who want more gun control. Already the folks over at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence are crowing. The New York Times is using this incident to compare gun owners to wife beaters. And the left leaning press from New York Magazine to Gawker to Slate to the Huffington Post are talking about how even the slightest amount of debate on guns is unacceptable to us gun nuts. Yeah, it is and do you want to know why? Because any compromise gun owners make just elicits calls for more compromises. Gun owners have given up too much on gun control already. Most of us want less control, not more.
Jorge Amselle is a certified firearms instructor and writer covering all aspects of the industry from military and law enforcement firearms and training to the shooting sports. His youtube channel is http://www.youtube.com/amselle.