The firearms magazine Guns & Ammo fired its longtime editor Dick Metcalf on Wednesday after an opinion column he penned was met with backlash from readers. But days later, debate over the publication’s response continues.
Metcalf’s column, which discussed the difference between “regulation” and “infringement” of gun laws, was described by several media outlets as cautious. But longtime “Guns & Ammo” readers almost unanimously disagreed, and despite an apology, many still vow boycott the magazine in protest.
Backlash against Metcalf’s column, which was titled “Let’s Talk Limits: Do certain firearms regulations really constitute infringement?” began before the December issue even went to print. In the column, Metcalf argued that regulation “is, in fact, the initial criterion” of the Second Amendment and that “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,” he wrote, “All constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be. Freedom of speech is regulated… Freedom of religion is regulated… Freedom of assembly is regulated.”
A PDF of the column, which ends with his conclusion, “I don’t think requiring 16 hours of training to qualify for a concealed carry permit is infringement in and of itself. But that’s just me,” was circulated in advance on the blog The Truth About Guns. The fury was immediate.
Subscribers flocked to the magazine’s Facebook page, pouring their vitriol into the comments sections of every subsequent status the publication posted, even ones that were not related to Metcalf’s column. Reactions included: “Not buying another one of your magazines until Metcalf is fired. Also will not be supporting companies that advertise with you until this is resolved”, “After the Metcalf piece supporting gun control you can keep your rag!” and “Guns and Ammo will not exist within 6 months, if they do not retract this ridiculous ‘interpretation’ of the 2nd Amendment.”
Although to many outside of Guns & Ammo’s readership, Metcalf’s column might have seemed fairly moderate in tone, the anger it provoked isn’t really surprising given the magazine’s political alignment historically. As editor Jim Bequette later wrote in his apology to readers, during which he also announced he was stepping down, Guns & Ammo has since its inception more than 50 years ago, demonstrated a strong ideological commitment to the Second Amendment and garnered a reputation as a haven for gun rights advocates.
Magazine editors quickly took note and issued a formal apology. In a statement released on their website, Bequette took responsibility for Metcalf’s contentious piece, saying he had thought it would provoke a discussion.
Bequette began by apologizing to readers - “No excuses, no backtracking” - before promising that the publication’s commitment to the Second Amendment was “unwavering.”
“Historically, our tradition in supporting the Second Amendment has been unflinching. No strings attached,” Bequette wrote. “In publishing Metcalf’s column, I was untrue to that tradition, and for that I apologize.”
He said in closing that publishing the column had been a mistake. “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.”
The apology was similarly posted on Facebook on Wednesday, and it received nearly 2,000 likes within a day. “Thanks for stepping up G&A...you did the right thing,” one commenter wrote. But others were less impressed. “While I commend the acknowledgment of the colossal error in publishing Dick's illconcived [sic] article I remain conflicted,” another commenter wrote. “Part of me wants to accept the apology. But I am leaning toward letting my subscription laps [sic]… Guns and Ammo has done more in one artical to damage our cause than Bloomburg could manage with millions of his dollars.”
On Friday, Metcalf wrote a response of his own on The Outdoor Wire. He said that he was disappointed by the magazine’s handling of the situation, saying it betrayed the back page’s provocative nature.
“If a respected editor can be forced to resign and a controversial writer's voice be shut down by a one-sided social-media and internet outcry, virtually overnight, simply because they dared to open a discussion… then I fear for the future of our industry,” he wrote.
Metcalf will also appear on Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk Radio on Sunday, Nov. 10.