Gun Bullies

I have written several times about liberal bullies who threaten people who dare to question their ideals with the loss of employment, or worse. Most recently I have defended Phil Robertson’s right to express his opinion about homosexuality and other issues. There are some who do not regard this sort of thing as an infringement of the right of free speech because it is not a case of the police or government agents jailing anyone. I do not agree. If a clique of activists can pressure employers to blacklist anyone who dissents from politically correct orthodoxy, the effect is much the same as the threat of sending that person to prison. The whole point is to instill fear and compliance.

It is with a sense of disappointment, then, that I must now write about a case of conservative bullying , this time on the subject of gun control. I have been and still am a supporter of the second amendment right to bear arms. I do not own a gun and have never fired one. I am under no illusions that I could use a gun to defeat a criminal. I do not even like guns very much. I wish they had never been invented and that people still fought wars with spears and swords. My support for the second amendment is solely due to my support for freedom. I believe that if someone wants to own a gun, they should be allowed to own a gun and ought not to have to explain themselves to anyone. I agree with the NRA and others that this is a freedom issue.

For this reason, I believe that those who purport to defend freedom ought to play any role in restricting freedom, especially when it comes to a man who is on their side and has himself been a firm supporter of the second amendment. Such an action, however, can be found in the case of Dick Metcalf. Mr. Metcalf is a well-known gun writer who had a column in Guns & Ammo as well as a television show. He had the column and show, until he wrote a column suggesting that there should be some sort of regulations on gun ownership. This act of heresy got him fired. Here are more details from the New York Times. I realize that the Times is not the most credible source, being only one notch above the Weekly World News these days, but I think the article is worth reading.

he byline of Dick Metcalf, one of the country’s pre-eminent gun journalists, has gone missing. It has been removed from Guns & Ammo magazine, where his widely-read column once ran on the back page. He no longer stars on a popular television show about firearms. Gun companies have stopped flying him around the world and sending him the latest weapons to review.

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.

Just days after the column appeared, Mr. Metcalf said, his editor called to tell him that two major gun manufacturers had said “in no uncertain terms” that they could no longer do business with InterMedia Outdoors, the company that publishes Guns & Ammo and co-produces his TV show, if he continued to work there. He was let go immediately.

“I’ve been vanished, disappeared,” Mr. Metcalf, 67, said in an interview last month on his gun range here, about 100 miles north of St. Louis, surrounded by snow-blanketed fields and towering grain elevators. “Now you see him. Now you don’t.”

He is unsure of his next move, but fears he has become a pariah in the gun industry, to which, he said, he has devoted nearly his entire adult life.

He is right, of course, in suggesting that the constitutional right to bear arms must have some limits. I don’t believe that even the most fanatic gun rights advocate would suggest that citizens be permitted to own rocket-propelled grenades, or surface to air missiles, then again I could be wrong.

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.”

That is the problem, though. The people who call for “reasonable restrictions” to prevent “gun violence” often seem to believe that the only reasonable restriction is to ban private ownership of firearms. Still, I don’t think that it is necessary to circle the wagons as it were. Public opinion and political momentum are on the side of the defenders of the second amendment. Remember, the measures that President Obama wanted Congress to pass were very mild compared to the sort of proposals that were discussed a couple of decades ago, and it still didn’t pass. The Supreme Court has affirmed the second amendment grants individuals the right to own guns. We shouldn’t grow complacent, but there is no need to be defensive or set up an inquisition to ensure ideological purity. We don’t have to act like liberals.

What has happened to Dick Metcalf  and others is no different than what happened to Phil Robertson. Both men were fired after expressing an opinion which offended an activist group, in Metcalf’s case seemingly an entire industry. I would hope that the people who supported Phil Robertson’s rights would also support Dick Metcalf, even if they don’t agree with what he wrote. I am not very hopeful that will happen, though. These days, all too many people only support the right to express opinions they personally agree with.



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Sheriffs Against Gun Control

I read in the news this week that there are some county sheriffs in Colorado and New York that have decided to refuse to enforce the stricter gun control laws that their state legislatures have passed. The story can be found in the New York Times, but I first read about it in Charles C. W. Cooke’s article on National Review Online. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times story.

When Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County explains in speeches why he is not enforcing the state’s new gun laws, he holds up two 30-round magazines. One, he says, he had before July 1, when the law banning the possession, sale or transfer of the large-capacity magazines went into effect. The other, he “maybe” obtained afterward.

He shuffles the magazines, which look identical, and then challenges the audience to tell the difference.

“How is a deputy or an officer supposed to know which is which?” he asks.

Colorado’s package of gun laws, enacted this year after mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., has been hailed as a victory by advocates of gun control. But if Sheriff Cooke and a majority of the other county sheriffs in Colorado offer any indication, the new laws — which mandate background checks for private gun transfers and outlaw magazines over 15 rounds — may prove nearly irrelevant across much of the state’s rural regions.

Some sheriffs, like Sheriff Cooke, are refusing to enforce the laws, saying that they are too vague and violate Second Amendment rights. Many more say that enforcement will be “a very low priority,” as several sheriffs put it. All but seven of the 62 elected sheriffs in Colorado signed on in May to a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statutes.

The resistance of sheriffs in Colorado is playing out in other states, raising questions about whether tougher rules passed since Newtown will have a muted effect in parts of the American heartland, where gun ownership is common and grass-roots opposition to tighter restrictions is high.

In New York State, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed one of the toughest gun law packages in the nation last January, two sheriffs have said publicly they would not enforce the laws — inaction that Mr. Cuomo said would set “a dangerous and frightening precedent.” The sheriffs’ refusal is unlikely to have much effect in the state: According to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, since 2010 sheriffs have filed less than 2 percent of the two most common felony gun charges. The vast majority of charges are filed by the state or local police.

In Liberty County, Fla., a jury in October acquitted a sheriff who had been suspended and charged with misconduct after he released a man arrested by a deputy on charges of carrying a concealed firearm. The sheriff, who was immediately reinstated by the governor, said he was protecting the man’s Second Amendment rights.

I really hate to say it but Andrew Cuomo is right and these sheriffs are wrong. While law enforcement does have some discretion in making priorities and allocating resources in  enforcing the law, they do not have the authority to decide what laws they wish to enforce, nor may they refuse to enforce laws duly made by the legislature. In our republic  it is the legislature’s job to make the laws and the judiciary’s job to decide on their constitutionality. If the people do not like the laws that the legislature makes, they can petition the legislature to change the laws or they may change the legislators, as has already been done in Colorado. By acting as they are, the sheriffs, however well intentioned, are setting a precedent for the replacing of a country governed by laws and the constitution into a country governed by the whims of despots. I might add the fact that the chief law enforcer of the country, the President, has been deciding for himself what laws to enforce may well be considered grounds for impeachment, however politically impossible it may be at this time. These sheriffs are making themselves part of the problem rather than the solution.