The Florida-based gun enthusiast magazine Guns & Ammo fired longtime editor Dick Metcalf on Wednesday and apologized to readers after Metcalf’s column in the magazine’s December issue sparked an online uproar from readers, gun bloggers, and other corners of the conservative movement.
“I made a mistake by publishing the column,” Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette wrote in a statement. “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.” Bequette said the magazine had failed to be true to its readers’ expectations of unqualified defense of the Second Amendment, and announced that the magazine had ended its “association” with Metcalf. Bequette, Metcalf, and Guns & Ammo have not responded to requests for comment.
Metcalf’s back-page column was headlined “Let’s Talk About Limits,” (PDF) and cautiously argued that gun enthusiasts should not oppose basic limits on firearm ownership. Metcalf made the obvious point that all freedoms protected by the Constitution are regulated in some way, and that gun owners should stop acting as if any regulation whatsoever amounts to the “infringement” mentioned in the Second Amendment. “I don’t think requiring 16 hours of training to qualify for a concealed carry permit is infringement in and of itself,” Metcalf concluded. “But that’s just me.”
But thousands of gun enthusiasts weren’t content to just disagree with Metcalf’s reading of the Second Amendment, and the column immediately went viral without even being on the web. As the December Guns & Ammo began hitting mailboxes earlier this week, blogs and gun forums lit up with outrage and amateur constitutional law debate.
On Nov. 2, Robert Farago of the website The Truth About Guns posted a PDF of the column, and excoriated Metcalf for interpreting the “well-regulated militia” clause of the Second Amendment as a justification for gun laws. “Anyone who says ‘I believe in the Second Amendment but—’ does not believe in the Second Amendment,” Farago wrote. “They are not friends, they are not frenemies, they are enemies of The People of the Gun.”
Grant Cunningham, a gun trainer in Oregon, called the column a “sorry apologist screed” and accused Guns & Ammo of betraying the cause. “This is a major, mainstream industry magazine, one read by a big percentage of the gun owning public. Its prominent editor has given a large amount of space to agree with some of the most common anti-gun talking points.” Cunningham added that the magazine “should start to repair the damage to the community by immediately and clearly distancing themselves from the opinions expressed and reaffirming their support for the Second Amendment.”
Conservative internet publications outside the gun subculture began adding fuel to the fire. Bloggers at PJ Media and the Newsbusters both mocked Metcalf for thinking the phrase “well-regulated militia” in the Second Amendment meant legislation, rather than just well-run. “Someone get in touch with … Dick Metcalf, and let him know that ‘happily’ as used in the early 17 century [sic] by William Shakespeare does not mean ‘happy’ but ‘perhaps,’” Newsbusters’ P.J. Gladnick wrote. Breitbart’s Awr Hawkins added: “Metcalf has seized on the words ‘well-regulated,’ taking them out of context to the detriment of ‘shall not be infringed.’”
Four days later, with readers canceling subscriptions and flooding its Facebook page with venomous comments, Guns & Ammo bowed to the pressure.
“It is no accident that when others in the gun culture counseled compromise in the past, hardcore-thinkers like Harlon Carter, Don Kates and Neal Knox found a voice in these pages,” editor Jim Bequette wrote in his strongly-worded apology. “When large firearms advocacy groups were going soft in the 1970s, they were prodded in the right direction from the pages of Guns & Ammo… In publishing Metcalf’s column, I was untrue to that tradition.”
In addition to Metcalf’s firing, Bequette announced that he would accelerate plans to step down as editor.