I’m a longtime gun-owner, a lifelong hunter and a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment that protects the right of Americans to own and bear arms.
I also was, until recently, a member of the National Rifle Association. I turned in my membership card after the midterm elections because of the organization’s unabashed support of crooked Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) and racist Senator George Allen (R-VA).
Fortunately, both DeLay and Allen are gone from the halls of Congress. DeLay quit amid his mounting ethical problems and investigations into his criminal behavior. Allen lost his re-election bid to Jim Webb, also an NRA member.
NRA’s support of both men showed me the organization cared more about protecting elected officials they had in the bag than about morality, ethics or doing the right thing.
So I quit – tossing out back issues of American Rifleman, scraping the NRA decal off the windshield of my Jeep and sending my membership card back in the mail with a two-page letter explaining my reasons for quitting.
No one at NRA responded. I didn’t expect them do. I’ve known Wayne LaPierre, the head honcho at NRA, for more than 20 years. His arrogance exemplifies the NRA and its attitude towards anyone who disagrees with their lockstep mentality.
I also know Jim Zumbo, a gregarious outdoorsman who wrote for Outdoor Life magazine and hosted a popular show on the Outdoor Channel. Zumbo is both a straight shooter and a straight talker who says what he thinks – an admirable trait in most circles but not in the blinders-driven world of the NRA and gun fanatics.
On Feb. 16, Zumbo wrote on his blog on the Outdoor Life Web Site that he didn’t see any reason for hunters to need assault weapons.
“Excuse me, maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity,” Zumbo said. “As hunters, we don’t need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. I’ll go so far as to call them ‘terrorist’ rifles.”
Zumbo put into words what many hunters, me included, believe. I own enough weapons to start a small war but my collection does not include an assault weapon nor will one ever find a place in my gun safe. I don’t need an AR-15 to hunt deer, squirrel, quail or turkey in the mountains around my home. No real hunter has a legitimate need for such weaponry. While I’m sure many owners of assault-style weapons are law-abiding gun enthusiasts like myself and Jim Zumbo, too many of the clowns I’ve seen waving assault-style weapons around are para-military wannabes — just like the ones who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and killed innocent men, women and children.
Zumbo didn’t advocate banning the weapons. He simply said real hunters don’t have any need for one and suggested states not allow them to be used for hunting. But that didn’t stop the NRA and its members from coming down on him with guns blazing. Assault gun owners, and the companies that make them, demanded Zumbo be fired from Outdoor Life and the Outdoor Channel. The cable channel suspended his show, he resigned from Outdoor Life after 6,000 readers sent in email demanding he be fired and Remington Arms Company, which makes assault rifles, severed its sponsorship of his program and activities.
The NRA cited Zumbo as a warning to anyone – including “fellow gun owners” – that opposing them publicly can be dangerous. LaPierre, in typical arrogant fashion, warned Congress to “take note” of what happened to Zumbo as an example of the consequences of crossing the gun lobby.
If I had not sent in my membership card after the NRA’s disgraceful performance during the November midterm elections, it would be in the mail now as a protest and expression of disgust over the treatment of Jim Zumbo.
The overreaction by the gun community has forced Zumbo to step back from his principles and try to salvage his livelihood. He apologized for his remarks and has offered to go hunting with an assault weapon – a capitulation I find disturbing but not surprising given a need to make a living.
I doubt Zumbo’s retrenchment will work. The gun lobby doesn’t forgive and it doesn’t forget. During the Clinton years, LaPierre criticized the Justice Department of then Attorney General Janet Reno and called federal agents “jack-booted thugs.”
The tactics utilized by the NRA and the gun owners who refuse to even consider a second opinion from one of their own show jack boot thuggery is not limited to the U.S. Department of Justice. Where I come from that’s known as the pot calling the kettle black.
(Revised at 6:00 p.m. EST)