Longtime gun writer and TV host Dick Metcalf was dismissed from Guns & Ammo magazine after penning an article for the periodical in which he wrote that the constitutional right to bear arms is subject to regulation, including state-required training for those seeking to carry a concealed handgun.
Mr. Metcalf is the third gun writer in the last several years to lose his job after questioning the need for a strict defense of Second Amendment rights.
The article, featured on the December issue’s final page, saw Mr. Metcalf argue that the Second Amendment is not different from other rights such as freedom of speech, in that it is not absolute. He made a case, one anathema to many in the gun community, that the amendment’s word “well-regulated” allows for laws regulating firearms.
“I bring this up because way 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,” Mr. Metcalf wrote.
Word spread quickly in the online gun community, with the displeasure of thousands of gun owners and activists being made clear. Social media and online forums were alight with calls for Guns & Ammo to fire Mr. Metcalf, or for boycotts of the magazine and its advertisers.
On Wednesday night, Guns & Ammo dismissed Mr. Metcalf and the editor who approved the column accelerated his plans to step down from his post.
According to a letter penned by Jim Bequette, editor of Guns & Ammo, Mr. Metcalf’s “association with Guns & Ammo has officially ended.” Mr. Bequette went on to assure readers that “our tradition in supporting the Second Amendment is unflinching. No strings attached.”
He offered “my personal apology” and said “I made a mistake by publishing the column.” Mr. Bequette also said that while plans were “already in place” for him to leave the magazine and turn over its reins to Eric Poole, “these recent events have convinced me I should advance that schedule immediately.”
Rob Pincus, a TV host who has worked with Mr. Metcalf, says that this sort of response to an endorsement of firearms regulation is to be expected.
“Social media is very powerful inside the gun niche,” Mr. Pincus told The Washington Times. “When someone who is perceived as a leader, or having a position of influence, or can be presumed to speak for the community to the public realm, goes outside of that solidarity, they get called to task very quickly.”
The parting of ways was immediately praised by many in the gun-rights community.
Michael Bane, host of the Outdoor Channel show “Shooting Gallery,” expressed a sentiment shared by many gun enthusiasts on his blog when he wrote of Mr. Metcalf, “the cold hard truth is he had to go” despite what he called a 30-year friendship and “a lot of adult beverage under the bridge.”
Perhaps the kiss of death for Mr. Metcalf was when the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the most prominent gun control groups, shared a link on its wall, stating that the “the editor (sic) of Guns & Ammo makes an argument for gun regulation,” which inspired a wave of admiring and approving remarks from supporters of stricter gun laws. (Mr. Metcalf’s position at the magazine was technical editor.)
The Brady Campaign did not return a request for comment Thursday. Nor did Mr. Metcalf have any public word on his dismissal.
The magazine could have been justified in fearing financial retribution from the gun community, which has proven to be aggressive when ostensibly pro-gun personalities and publications express any support whatsoever for laws that they see as an infringement of an alienable right.
In 2007, firearms and hunting writer and TV personality Jim Zumbo published a blog entry in which he declared his support for a ban on sporting rifles, or assault rifles, for hunting. The reaction from the gun community was swift, with Mr. Zumbo losing several business sponsorships, and shortly afterward the Outdoor Channel put his show, “Jim Zumbo Outdoors,” on hiatus.
In 2012, Jerry Tsai, editor of the magazine Recoil, wrote in an article about an automatic weapon that said the gun was not available to civilians “for good reason.” Immediately after, boycotts were launched, with advertisers pulling out of the magazine at a rapid rate. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Tsai resigned as the publication’s editor.
Though the past few days have damaged Mr. Metcalf’s image to a large portion of his audience, all hope might not be lost. After extensively apologizing for his comments, expressing his opposition to gun control, and spending time using assault-rifle type guns, Mr. Zumbo returned to his program and has since largely recovered his image in the gun community.
Mr. Pincus, however, has his doubts as to whether or not a return to the norm is in Mr. Metcalf’s future.
“He provided a great service to the firearms community as a reviewer of guns. But he has been in this industry a long time. The opinions he expressed in this piece were fundamental, not a misunderstanding about a piece of equipment like in the Zumbo situation,” Mr. Pincus said. “This could be awfully hard to recover from.”