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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Free speech vs. 2nd Amendment; gun advocate silenced for departure from industry line

Posted By on Sun, Jan 5, 2014 at 8:02 AM

click to enlarge SILENCED: Dick Metcalf lost column over one shown here with his photo. - SPORTING SHOOTER
  • Sporting Shooter
  • SILENCED: Dick Metcalf lost column over one shown here with his photo.
The gun nuts talk a lot about the Constitution and the inviolability of the 2nd Amendment. But their expansive notion of freedoms doesn't apply to those with whom they disagree.

Interesting account in the New York Times of the silencing of a prominent gun writer, Dick Metcalf. He's been banished from Guns and Ammo magazine, lost a spot on TV and is no longer in favor for gun company junkets, His sin?

In late October, Mr. Metcalf wrote a column that the magazine titled “Let’s Talk Limits,” which debated gun laws. “The fact is,” wrote Mr. Metcalf, who has taught history at Cornell and Yale, “all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.”

The backlash was swift, and fierce. Readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions. Death threats poured in by email. His television program was pulled from the air.

Metcalf said nothing more than a pro-gun majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has said in loosening some prior limits on application of the 2nd Amendment but clearly preserving governments' ability to impose variety sorts of regulation in the name of public safety, among others. Metcalf's column closed, for example, by supporting required training for people who receive concealed carry permits.

Best part of  the New York Times article was this:

His experience sheds light on the close-knit world of gun journalism, where editors and reporters say there is little room for nuance in the debate over gun laws. Moderate voices that might broaden the discussion from within are silenced. When writers stray from the party line promoting an absolutist view of an unfettered right to bear arms, their publications — often under pressure from advertisers — excommunicate them.

“We are locked in a struggle with powerful forces in this country who will do anything to destroy the Second Amendment,” said Richard Venola, a former editor of Guns & Ammo. “The time for ceding some rational points is gone.”

An absence of rational thought is hardly surprising to anyone in Arkansas. The prevailing political sentiment now in Arkansas is that regulation of guns is not allowed — period. Any politician who says otherwise is signing his or or her death warrant. Or so goes the clamor from the gun nuts and it is a rare politician who'll endure the noise and side occasionally with public opinion polls that still show a wellspring of support for some common-sense regulation (background checks for gun shows, say), even in Arkansas.

The article is about more than Metcalf, but about the closed world of gun journalism and the industry's influence on what's written. Metcalf is an ironic victim.

Mr. Metcalf said he invited a reporter to his home because he despairs that the debate over gun policy in America is so bitterly polarized and dominated by extreme voices. He says he is still contemplating how a self-described “Second Amendment fundamentalist” who keeps a .38 snub-nose Smith & Wesson revolver within easy reach has been ostracized from his community.

“Compromise is a bad word these days,” he said. “People think it means giving up your principles.”


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