Saturday, February 24, 2007

Boys and their toys - gun owners return fire

I didn't expect to spend this much time today thinking about guns. Not unlike the unfortunate Mr. Zumbo, I also put up a throwaway post this morning venting a little ire, that I didn't expect anyone to read. Happily I received some thoughtful comments on the post, including one from gunblogger Kevin Baker at The Smallest Minority who offered to continue the dialogue. I decided to start a new post with my reply:

Kevin, I just spent a lot of time at your place, and I also say this meaning no offense, I learned a little more about guns and lot more about angry gun owners. As far as poor Mr. Zumbo, I have to go with Rocky on this. I looked at your arguments and what I'm seeing is an all or nothing, with me or against me mentality that does far more damage to your cause than one stray remark by someone I never would have heard of if you didn't just ruin his life.

No amount of apology or explanation is enough? No possible penance but his complete destruction is satisfactory to atone for one effing, off the cuff remark that no one outside of the gun community, or the anti community, would have heard of without this blitz of outrage? I look at this as a non-owner who supports your rights and I see an old guy who has to be what, in his mid-60s anyway, who put up what he thought would be a throwaway post. Maybe it wasn't that well thought through but a guy of his age gets tired out after a day of hunting and doesn't think as fast as a young buck with an AR-15 on his hip.

It was one post, one careless remark and he's suddenly descended upon by thousands of AK owners that resemble nothing so much as ravenous pack of wolves. Where is your humanity, people? And if it feels that frightening to me, think about how it's going to play on the gun control side. It totally feeds into the whole stereotype of semi-auto owners as a bunch of maniacal sociopaths gleefully spraying the countryside with bullets.

You're worried that Zumbo was trying to drive a wedge between the two groups? No offense, but you guys are the ones that just split the ranks and all you've done is feed the disinfo machine you say is victimizing me.

I see this as a total PR disaster for your side and the only way I see to rescue it now is for the gun owners to get together and decide to forgive poor old Zumbo, accept his apology and blitz the internets with emails asking he be reinstated. And I say this because I want you to get to keep your guns and I think this whole sorry episode has taken you a big step in the wrong direction.

All that being said, and this is alreadly overlong, I really do appreciate your willingness to educate me on the attraction of semi-auto weapons as a hunting gun. What I know about guns overall would fit on the broad side of a dime, but this is what I think I know about semis. They're built to be durable under stress, meaning multiple firings in a short time span and repeated firings without requiring some kind of maintainence. They hold a large round of bullets, 30 wouldn't be unusual. If you use the gun to go hunting, you can't load more than 5 at a time anyway. You tell me they're more accurate, but the piece I linked to earlier said they use a smaller caliber bullet and have a greater chance of wounding rather killing a deer outright and so aren't allowed in many places already.

So with the understanding that this is the sum total of my knowledge, I'm telling you that what I see is a gun that sounds like it would be a hell of a lot of fun at the shooting range where you could empty a 30 round, but that you can't use as it's designed to be enjoyed as a hunting gun anyway. So I'm asking this honestly because I just don't get it and I really do want to understand, what is so bloody important about hunting with one these guns that would justify destroying the livelihood of one single farookin senior citizen who dared to suggest you shouldn't be allowed to do it?

The man made a passing remark. He wasn't calling for legislation and the formation of citizen's action groups. With due respect, I ask you to think about the same quote you left for me.
"We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately." - Ben Franklin.
And I ask every one of you who took this poor old man down, have you never in your whole life made one remark you wanted to take back? I know I have, so I'm not so quick to judge the entirety of a man's life and future intent based on a single sentence uttered in exhaustion. If you can't find it in your hearts to forgive such a small slight, you're not going to win any hearts and minds of the non-owners and frankly such a cold attitude makes it all the more difficult for people like me to lend any warmth to our support of your cause.
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Blogger Kevin said...


I'm not trying to be condescending, but try reading my blog again with your "preconceived notion" filter turned off.

I didn't ruin Jim Zumbo's life. He did, or at least he put a major kink in it. As another blogger so aptly put it, "On Friday night, a gunwriter apparently tired of his 42-year career put his word processor in his mouth and pulled the trigger."

Am I "all or nothing"? With respect to the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, pretty much. I make exceptions for "limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions for particular cases that are reasonable and not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally" - especially after due process of law, but broad prohibitions? Damned straight I'm an extremist.

"No amount of apology or explanation enough?" - Did you read "That Didn't Take Long"? Did you read The Sport of Kings - where I specifically said "the question remains, though, if he'll educate himself enough to alter his opinion." Apologizing for the wrong thing is no apology at all. He finally did understand, but it was far too late to stop what had happened.

"(O)ne careless remark and he's suddenly descended upon by thousands of AK owners that resemble nothing so much as ravenous pack of wolves. Where is your humanity, people?" Did you read the piece I linked to, "The Radicalization of America's Gun Culture"? Our reaction is due to that decades-long slow-motion hate crime foisted on us by the gun ban organizations and their willing accomplices in the media. And it was about time, too. Mr. Zumbo was just the unfortunate recipient of a lot of pent up, but justifiable anger.

You say you support our rights, but do you understand why? Do you understand what it is you're supporting? Or is it just a knee-jerk response from having grown up exposed to firearms? Is there an underlying philosophy, or are you willing to "compromise" away things that don't directly affect you?

Zumbo wasn't trying to drive a wedge, but the end result was the same as if he had been. The rift has always existed, he exposed it, now we have to work to close it.

"It totally feeds into the whole stereotype of semi-auto owners as a bunch of maniacal sociopaths gleefully spraying the countryside with bullets."

Trust me, our opposition doesn't need any help on that account, but having people like Jim Zumbo say things like "Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. I'll go so far as to call them "terrorist" rifles." and "This really has me concerned. As hunters, we don't need the image of walking around the woods carrying one of these weapons. To most of the public, an assault rifle is a terrifying thing. Let's divorce ourselves from them. I say game departments should ban them from the praries and woods." does far more damage to our cause that any hundred unknown yahoos spouting off in blog comments.

You don't seem to understand. They already believe the bullshit. They just want people like Jim Zumbo to give them authoritative sound-bites to reinforce those beliefs.

This has gone on long enough (get me going and I don't stop), but one final point: I wasn't offering to educate you "on the attraction of semi-auto weapons as a hunting gun." I was offering to educate you on why the right to arms is so important that it's worth not compromising on. That's a much more involved and time-consuming curriculum.

Oh, I misspoke. One final thing - read Cowboy Blob's recommendation for how Jim Zumbo might recover his career. It's an idea I think everyone can get behind.

12:19:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Kevin, I find your response to be arrogant and evasive. You cherrypick the comments that fit your agenda but fail to answer my biggest points. Who the hell died and made you people arbitors of what is allowed to be said? If you folks think your behavior is justified because you've been shit on for so long by the establishment, you might consider it's exactly this kind of extremist behavior that led to it.

Clearly you don't have an answer to the two most basic questions I asked. Number one, there apparently is no great reason to have to use these guns in hunting, and number two there is no reasonable justification for having ruined this man's life over a stray remark.

Tam's quote is very clever but it doesn't really describe the situation. Zumbo didn't pull the trigger, you guys shot him dead with thousands of rounds from your AK keyboards and frankly and no offense intended, I'm calling it like I see it, I find your behavior is more like terrorists than good Americans. We're supposed to stick up for our fellow Americans, not try to kill them, literally or figuratively. And if you think I'm offbase with that perception then please explain to me the difference between the cruelty of your mob mentality and the harsh unforgiving judgmental attitude and any other effing jihad.

I ask you one last time, are so fucking perfect that you have never said anything in haste that you regretted later? And how would you feel about it if the same thing happened to you, or your father or your grandfather over one stray remark.

As for Blob's solution, I think that pretty sums up what's driving you guys. Sounds more like jealousy over his success than any great concern over the larger issues. I read his apologies and they sounded pretty damn sincere to me but the only thing that will satisfy you guys is if he gives up his success and moves to a trailer park and starts hunting with 50 dollar guns? If he prostates himself before you and allows you guys to stomp on him for a few months, then you'll forgive him? What bullshit.

You all should be ashamed of yourselves. I'm certainly ashamed for you.

10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Editor said...

A thoughtful post. Zumbos' post landed on a crack that opened debate that will not stop. A mistake that has already cost him his job, and a sizeable income.
the word terrorist and ban should never have been used. He will be back soon, most sportsmen will forgive him quite easily.

10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Editor thanks for your kind words. I read your blog last night and it heartens me to know that not all gun bloggers are out for this poor old guy's blood.

I finally saw the original Zumbo post and yeah the choice of words was ill-advised but I don't think he deserved the treatment he received over it. I'm especially disturbed that this whole thing went down without even giving the man a chance to defend himself first.

And what astounds me is that the gun owners don't see they've given the antis more ammunition and done more damage in 48 hours with this over-reaction than Zumbo could have done in a lifetime.

11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...


OK, fair questions. Let's see if I can answer some of them to your satisfaction.

"Who the hell died and made you people arbitors of what is allowed to be said?"

We're the ones trying to preserve the right to arms for everyone, not just hunting rifles, though we're protecting them, too - because we know, having watched it happen in other countries, that "divide and conquer" is how a fundamental human right gets stripped away. Think about what you saw: thousands if not tens of thousands of people stood up and spoke as one. But we're told that doing that violated Jim Zumbo's right to free speech? What about our right of free speech?

(T)here apparently is no great reason to have to use these guns in hunting...

It isn't about hunting. It isn't about "need." It's about a fundamental right - a right that has hunting only as a corollary to it. If the gun ban groups - which have been trying for decades to tie the right to arms to "sporting purpose" clauses or "hunting" specifically - are successful, then the end of our right to arms is ensured. Look at what has happened in the UK. We are trying to avoid that fate here. (And I could go on for several days about what's happened to the UK since 1920 in terms of crime, individual rights, and government overreach, but hardly anyone outside the firearms community knows anything about what's going on there. It's totally off their radar.)

"(T)here is no reasonable justification for having ruined this man's life over a stray remark."

It was not "a stray remark." Let's get that straight right now. Those remarks represent the actual belief of far too large a percentage of the gun-owning community, and damned near all of us who protested so loudly have been the recipient of comments as bad if not worse from both inside and outside the community. From outside it's bad enough. From inside it's inexcusable.

As I said in my third or fourth piece, if "in vinum, veritas" why not "in fatigo, veritas?" He meant what he said. He represents, or represented, a large chunk of the gun-owning public. They've all been put on notice that such attitudes will not be ignored any more. We stand for everybody's right. The division needs to cease.

"We're supposed to stick up for our fellow Americans, not try to kill them, literally or figuratively."

Indeed. And when someone suggests that I'm a terrorist because I own a certain style rifle, or that my firearm should be banned because it looks scary, that's "sticking up for fellow Americans"? Shouldn't that work both ways? I'm sorry Libby, but freedom isn't free. It's messy and disorganized, but it's better than top-down totalitarianism. Zumbo spoke. He's paid the price for it. Liberty in action. He spoke, we spoke. He lost.

"And if you think I'm offbase with that perception then please explain to me the difference between the cruelty of your mob mentality and the harsh unforgiving judgmental attitude and any other effing jihad."

He still has his head. No one was blown up, stoned to death, gang-raped or imprisoned. Words were exchanged. Sponsors withdrew sponsorships. Mr. Zumbo is quite alive and physically unharmed. He is merely unemployed for the time being. He is free to still express that very same opinion, albeit to a much smaller audience. If you cannot see a difference between that and jihad, then you need to get your prescription checked. What you saw was economics at work, not religious or government persecution.

"I ask you one last time, are so fucking perfect that you have never said anything in haste that you regretted later?"

Indeed I have, but my job is not as spokesman for an entire industry. And I could have very well lost my job for my mistake, but it wouldn't have been witnessed by tens or hundreds of thousands in the public sphere. The higher you rise, the farther the fall. Are you suggesting that people who have risen to high-profile status should be given a pass just because they're there? What's "fair" about that? What makes them entitled to special consideration?

"Sounds more like jealousy over his success than any great concern over the larger issues."

That's because you're not part of the gun culture, and you're looking at it from the outside. Yes, there were a lot of comments about Zumbo hunting 200 days a year on someone else's dime. Many of us would love to have that opportunity. All we want is for people in that position not to stab the rest of us in the back. When he did, well, you saw what happened. It was about the "larger issue." It was "how could you? How could someone so coddled by the industry say something like that?"

"I read his apologies and they sounded pretty damn sincere to me..."

Libby, he was sincere, but he was apologizing for the wrong thing. And he kept doing it. He knew he'd said something(s) wrong, but he kept thinking it was about hunting. It's not about hunting. It never was.

Now he knows it's not. Now he's trying to make amends. Personally, I think he can get his career back - at least some of it. I think he can do a lot of good trying to make others who hold the attitude he expressed in that first, firestorm-inducing piece understand too. I hope he does.

And I am not ashamed of what happened. ON the contrary, I'm glad so many of us finally stood up with one voice (more or less) and said "NO MORE!"

Libby, I came to where I am today from studying what was happening to the Second Amendment. Since then, I've also seen what's happening to the First, Fourth, Fifth and all the rest. They're all interlinked. One cannot be damaged without damaging them all. One final quote for you to consider, from Alan Dershowitz - certainly not a big gun-rights fan:

"Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a public safety hazard, don't see the danger in the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like."

He gets it. Zumbo didn't.

12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Thanks for the temperate response to my intemperate remarks Kevin. I find I'm surprising angry about this since I have no dog in this fight.

I think we have to agree to disagree at this point. As I said in the comments of the other post, the FA gives both sides the right to speak out but frankly I think it diminishes civil society when one chooses to use that right to gang up in a personal vendetta against one person. I don't see how you can find something noble in having destroyed one man over one remark. If Zumbo has made a habit of posting such remarks I don't notice that anyone has managed to link to anything other than this one paragraph. Other than that he has been a strong advocate for gun ownership and like it or not, it's easier to sell the antis on gun rights on the basis of hunting rather than the right of someone to own a machine gun. You didn't destroy an enemy, you killed an effective ally.

You say the difference is that his bloody head is not literally hanging off a lamppost but I would submit that his bloodied and battered body is figuratively hanging from your gun belts. You folks basically tried and convicted this man without giving him a chance to present a defense first. That strikes me as tyrannical and not at all the American way.

As far as the greater issue of this being about the right to bear arms and not about the right to go hunting, I see that. What I can't understand is how you can't see how much damage you've done to that cause with your own behavior.

I agree that the government is trying to take your guns. It's just one more step in the direction of fascism. As I said to GayAl, the gov't has been steadily encroaching on our rights for a very long time and it plays into their hands when we attack each other instead of fighting together against invasive regulations.

You guys see this as some kind of big win because you were able to gang up on one guy and destroy him but I see it as a loss for everyone but those who are looking for an excuse to move us closer to Big Brother.

I think it's time to let this go but I do have one last question. What exactly do you think you accomplished with this overreaction? Meaning how do you think it advanced the cause of gun owner's rights?

1:18:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

"What exactly do you think you accomplished with this overreaction? Meaning how do you think it advanced the cause of gun owner's rights?"

Unity. Vocal unity of a huge number of people who have found that the internet gives them a voice that can no longer be ignored. All of this happened over a few days completely out of the sight of the normal media. Tam wrote in one of her pieces, "Ten years ago, had his statement survived the editorial process and made it into print, we would have seen a handful of cherry-picked letters on the "Letters to the Editor" page of Outdoor life, and things would have pretty much proceeded along at status quo ante. Not now. Not today."

Like it or not, politics is the art of organizing vocal groups of people. The politician's job isn't to do good or help people, it's to get re-elected and keep getting re-elected. He or she will do whatever they have to in order to accomplish that. The Party system demands it. Making them recognize that pissing off a large portion of the electorate is not a good idea is the unfortunate cornerstone of "representative democracy." The Zumbo incident illustrates that we are large, unified, literally self-organizing, and LOUD.

And we VOTE.

No one sent out postcards asking for donations. No gun-rights group had time to write a "mission statement." Nobody told us what we ought to do. We, as individuals, simply responded - in unison. You characterize that as "ganging up." I don't. It was legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of speech - by both sides. You state that we convicted him without allowing him to defend himself first, but what he said was indefensible - and he's admitted that himself, now.

If you want to talk about "Big Brother," we can have a long and interesting discussion about the UK - where gun-ban forces have achieved just about everything they ever wanted. And reaped the whirlwind for it.

We did not "destroy" Jim Zumbo. He's unemployed for the time being. That's all. He's also received an education. Now he has an opportunity to pick up the pieces and put something better together out of them. We did not "kill an effective ally," we convinced a probable quisling that he was wrong.

It is not our intent to convince anti-gunners that people ought to have access to firearms so that they can hunt - it's to convince them that they are misinformed as to why there is a right to arms and that they ought to defend it along with us. The tactics have (finally) changed, and it was past time for them to do so.

2:24:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Kevin, I'd agree you proved you were loud but if your goal was to scare politicians, I think you failed. You organized a mob and you took down one guy's career. If you were serious about changing the laws, you would have used that loud voice to harass your elected representatives who have some ability to change the law, not one guy, who said one thing you didn't like. You didn't change any minds by making Zumbo a scapegoat for a long simmering anger. And you sure as hell didn't change any laws. And from what I read in the comments at your place, one of your biggest problems is that you guys make a lot of noise but you don't vote.

You may not believe me, but you folks created a PR disaster that mark my words, will come back to haunt you. You think you scared the politicians by creating the impression you're a seething horde of unforgiving cretins who will destroy anyone who disagrees with them?

I'm not at all impressed by this "accomplishment" and the only reason I didn't go out yesterday and join an anti-gun movement is that I know a whole lot of responsible gun owners who are good, kind, decent Americans, including I'm sure some of your readers. But mark my words, the vile rhetoric that was spewed across the internets against Zumbo will be used in the future as ammunition to pass even more restrictions on your rights. I don't see how you expect this to be used to demonstrate what a level-headed responsible group of people semi owners are.

You may wear your extremist label proudly, but intractable anger isn't going to convince the average Jake that they shouldn't take away your guns.

You're a leading voice in the gun community Kevin and you have a grand opportunity here to admit you over-reacted and take the lead in repairing the damage. If you would rather revel in a temporary victory in one battle than take steps to win the greater war against gun owners, that's your choice and I support your right to make it. All I'm saying is think about the big picture before you write my perspective off as inconsequential.

3:45:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...


May I suggest you read the following?

Say Uncle: Careful, you might get Zumboed from Friday.

The War on Guns: On Forgiving Jim Zumbo

Claire Wolfe: Requiem for Jim Zumbo

Xavier Thoughts: Jim Zumbo Finally Gets It

Smoke on the Water: Predictions

The Cathouse: Why I Like Jim Zumbo

Cooler heads are now prevailing. Nobody "organized a mob." By definition, mobs aren't organized. The challenge now is to organize the people in it, now that they've realized that there's a large group of us with similar beliefs and a voice. The mob won't frighten our elective officials - but an organized force will.

Was damage done? Absolutely, both on Zumbo's side and by the response. One could have been avoided - but not the other. I can't do anything about what happened - neither can Jim Zumbo. We have only three choices now: Let it fade away (again), build something from it, or allow it to tear us apart.

I'm no "leading voice in the gun community" - I'm a guy with an opinion and a blog. The "leading voices" don't know me from Adam. I'm on no one's payroll, nor do I wish to be.

What I am is an advocate, and I'll continue to be.

I spent six months posting at Democratic Underground - almost exclusively in the "Gun Dungeon'. The best compliment I ever got - shortly before Skinner himself booted me in 2002 - was this: "Dear PITA (pain in the a$$): Don't shut up. I wildly disagree with most of your positions on this subject, but you are a damn fine advocate. And you make me think. And that is important."

Even though some people may wildy disagree with me, that's exactly what I have done, and intend to keep doing.

4:55:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Thanks for the links. I'm certainly glad to see some sympathy being shown for the old man. For some reason it makes me feel better. I still think you folks should be asking he be reinstated and given another chance. I think that would be a way to build on the attention you have right now and would be a huge PR coup for you. But I can also see the roots of this are lot deeper and go way beyond this one blog post so I'm going to let it go now.

As for your influence, I think you're too modest. I don't know gunnbloggers from Adam's cat but I've been around Blogtopia for four years now and I recognized you immediately. Whatever you think your status in the gun community is, your reach goes beyond there. I don't hold you responsible for what happened but I do believe you have an influence and the ability to frame the debate.

In any event, thanks for an interesting and enlightening dialogue. I learned a lot. I like that. It was a pleasure to "meet" you.

6:02:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Thanks for the forum. It was a pleasure contributing to the discussion.

If you ever want to learn more, please let me know. ;-)

9:23:00 PM  

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