Concealed Carry / Firearms / Media

Guns and Ammo Writer Fired in Failed Attempt to Generate Healthy Exchange of Ideas on Gun Rights

A veteran gun writer, Dick Metcalf, was fired today from his position as technical editor at Guns & Ammo magazine. Why? Because a column he wrote in the December 2013 issue of G&A suggested that not every firearm regulation constituted an infringement on the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms.

Metcalf’s column was of interest to me in particular because he seemed to be motivated to write it by the passage of Illinois’s concealed carry statute earlier this year. As Metcalf writes, “It’s a ‘shall issue’ law, but is requires 16 hours of training to qualify for a license. Many say that’s excessive – an inherent infringement. I don’t . . . I don’t think that requiring 16 hours of training to qualify for a concealed carry license is infringement in and of itself. But that’s just me . . .” (Find a link to the original column here.)

The issue of “training” is a controversial one in the gun culture. The default view of many leading figures within the culture, like Gun Talk radio and TV host Tom Gresham, implore people to get training, but do not think it should be required. Obviously, straying from that default view is hazardous to one’s standing in the community.

Although some in the gun culture were supportive of Metcalf’s position (see Dave Workman’s coverage in Gun Rights Examiner) – and the column clearly did stimulate an exchange of ideas – the anti-Metcalf forces prevailed and on November 7th the editor of G&A, Jim Bequette, issued the following statement:

As editor of “Guns & Ammo,” I owe each and every reader a personal apology.

No excuses, no backtracking.

Dick Metcalf’s “Backstop” column in the December issue has aroused unprecedented controversy. Readers are hopping mad about it, and some are questioning “Guns & Ammo”’s commitment to the Second Amendment. I understand why.

Let me be clear: Our commitment to the Second Amendment is unwavering. It has been so since the beginning. Historically, our tradition in supporting the Second Amendment has been unflinching. No strings attached. It is no accident that when others in the gun culture counseled compromise in the past, hard-core thinkers such as Harlon Carter, Don Kates and Neal Knox found a place and a voice in these pages. When large firearms advocacy groups were going soft in the 1970s, they were prodded in the right direction, away from the pages of “Guns & Ammo.”

In publishing Metcalf’s column, I was untrue to that tradition, and for that I apologize. His views do not represent mine — nor, most important, “Guns & Ammo”’s. It is very clear to me that they don’t reflect the views of our readership either.

Dick Metcalf has had a long and distinguished career as a gunwriter, but his association with “Guns & Ammo” has officially ended.

I once again offer my personal apology. I understand what our valued readers want. I understand what you believe in when it comes to gun rights, and I believe the same thing.

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.

Plans were already in place for a new editor to take the reins of “Guns & Ammo” on January 1. However, these recent events have convinced me that I should advance that schedule immediately.

Your new “Guns & Ammo” editor will be Eric R. Poole, who has so effectively been running our special interest publications, such as “Book of the AR-15” and “TRIGGER.” You will be hearing much more about this talented editor soon.

“Guns & Ammo” will never fail to vigorously lead the struggle for our Second Amendment rights, and with vigorous young editorial leadership such as Eric’s, it will be done even better in the future.

Respectfully,

Jim Bequette

Apparently not all exchanges of ideas are “healthy” within the gun culture. Rather than engaging in a debate about what level of regulation constitutes an infringement, the position that any regulation is an infringement – or could by a slippery slope become an infringement – prevailed.

In addition to having a clear implication for concealed carry training, something I’m very interested in, L’Affaire Metcalf also reminds me that I need to get moving on some blog posts I have been preparing on State Constitutional provisions regarding the right to keep and bear arms and the regulation thereof.

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5 thoughts on “Guns and Ammo Writer Fired in Failed Attempt to Generate Healthy Exchange of Ideas on Gun Rights

  1. Pingback: State Constitutional Provisions on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms | Gun Culture 2.0

  2. Metcalf’s firing for expressing his opinion was unfortunate. What is more disappointing is his editor not standing by his writer and his decision to publish the column. Not a good example of loyalty or leadership. Perhaps there is more to this story than what has been reported.

    Notwithstanding Metcalf’s position, it is reasonable to be cautious of proposals to mandate training as a prerequisite for citizens to own and carry firearms. It would be ideal if all armed citizens could attend a MAG 40 class. Writing from the perspective of having completed this course in 2012, I can say that this is the finest training that a citizen could hope to receive for the time and money invested.

    But, as a free people we must take responsibility for our actions. If we choose to forego training we should be prepared for the consequences. Statistics suggest that the risk of being involved in a self defense shooting is minimal. Personally, I would not want to count on those favorable odds. Good training is the responsible choice. But, in the end it should always be a choice.

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    • Jim – I thought I had already posted a reply to your fine comments. It is actually quite profound to think about values such as “responsibility” and “choice” and how they fit together as “responsible choice.” And how to encourage irresponsible gun owners to choose to be more responsible, short of mandating it?

      This is not really a propos of the training issue, but I think of the responsibility to keep guns secure. Whenever I hear of someone being shot because someone left a loaded firearm on/in their nightstand or on top of the fridge or wherever, I think: That person should be prosecuted. What do you think?

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  3. I’m not adverse to an exchange of ideas, what I am adverse to is the laws that usually follow such exchanges. The trend at a federal level is towards more gun regulation, and aside from “blue state” bastions such as New York and California, the trend is towards fewer firearms restrictions. As Michael Bane says, we’ve had that conversation, and the anti-gun forces lost.
    If Dick Metcalfe wanted to start that conversation with an eye to extending gun rights, why not start it in his home state of Illinois, where lawful concealed carry was banned for many years, and why not start during the period concealed carry was banned, rather than afterwards?
    Also, where is the discussion on training wheels for the other items in the Bill of Rights? Should a year of law school be required before the 5th Amendment can be invoked? Religious training for the Establishment Clause? 16 hours in a government-approved J-School class before owning a typewriter and practicing free speech? Why is it that guns are a bugaboo to so many people?
    Maybe it’s because firearms are the gateway drug to freedom. And freedom is a very scary thing.

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    • Kevin – Thanks for your taking the time to write this thoughtful comment. I heard you recently on the Balloon Goes Up podcast so nice to see you here also.

      Perhaps the problem in the Metcalf situation is he picked the wrong venue in which to air his views. A major print publication likes G&A seems too large a platform from which to float some ideas, and it also is not a space conducive to the back-and-forth which is the hallmark of the exchange of ideas.

      I personally have benefited from the discussion surrounding this situation. It has helped me think through issues I have not thought about very long and also to form more solid opinions out of the vast array of differing ideas.

      At this point — subject to change as I learn more — I would say it seems that at least some of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are not absolute. We have the right to the free exercise of religion, but we cannot exercise that right any way we choose. We have the right to free speech, but we cannot say anything we want. We have the right to a free press, but we cannot print anything we want.

      We have a right to keep and bear arms, but not absolutely. As with other rights, the question seems to be wear to draw the line. I think that is where a productive exchange should take place. At the same time, I recognize there are those whose ideal would be to repeal the 2A altogether, so the slippery slope is something to be concerned about.

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