Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

June 11, 2014

House of Burgess: Heresy hunts in the gun world

Who gets to be in the club any longer?

By Rob Burgess
Tribune columnist

— Meet Dick Metcalf: He’s a U.S. Army veteran and journalist who, until recently, wrote for “Guns & Ammo” and hosted his own TV show on the Sportsman’s Channel, “Modern Rifle Adventures TV.”

In his well-written, clear-eyed essay titled “Let’s Talk Limits” and published in the magazine’s December 2013 issue, Metcalf focused on the first few words of the Second Amendment — namely, the “well regulated” part. I wholeheartedly agree with his statements equating ideal gun laws with the process of obtaining a driver’s license.

“I understand that driving a car is not a right protected by the Constitution, but to me the basic principle is the same,” he wrote. “I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly.”

This perfectly reasonable argument did not sit well with either the firearms consumers who bought the magazine or with two of the major gun manufacturers who advertised in it.

“The backlash was swift, and fierce,” reported Ravi Somaiya for The New York Times Jan. 4. “Readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions. Death threats poured in by email. His television program was pulled from the air.”

Now, fast-forward to May 30. An as-yet-to-be-named staffer of the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm, Institute for Legislative Action, sent out an alert to members called: “Good Citizens and Good Neighbors: The Gun Owners’ Role.”

“Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done,” reads part of the introduction. “Gun owners would do well to consider the effect their behavior has on others, whether fellow gun owners or not.”

The post was released in the wake of several noisy controversies over gun laws in the Lone Star State.

“The Chipotle restaurant chain asked customers last month not to bring firearms into its stores after members of Open Carry Texas brought military-style assault rifles into one of its restaurants in the Dallas area,” reported Juan A. Lozano of The Associated Press June 3.

Later in the NRA-ILA piece, the author went on to denounce such practices, without naming any specific group.

“Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself,” reads the piece. “To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary.”

As one might have guessed, Open Carry Texas took offense.

“The NRA has lost its relevance and sided with [gun control extremists] and their lapdog media,” stated a June 1 post on its Facebook page. “No one in NRA leadership has ever been to an OCT event, but feels competent to speak out against them.”

In the following days, the original NRA-ILA post was hastily deleted. Only a terse paragraph replaced it. A June 3 clip of Chris Cox, executive director of NRA-ILA, speaking with Cam Edwards on the Nosler-sponsored, NRA-produced Sirius-XM Patriot show “Cam & Co,” was also posted. In the video, Cox made quick work of distancing himself from the original post, calling it a “mistake” and a “poor word choice.”

“It shouldn’t have happened,” Cox said. “I’ve had a discussion with the staffer who wrote that piece and [he] expressed his personal opinion.”

These two stories aren’t examples of apostates to the cause in the slightest. I would classify them as True Believers, with impressive resumes to back them up. No, scarily enough, these are what pass for heretics in today’s gun world. That is, at least, according to the ones who actually call the tune: gun makers and those who feel their Chipotle Burrito Bowl just doesn’t taste the same without an AK-47 by their side.

If people like Metcalf and Cox can’t do the secret handshake correctly anymore, what hope is there for the rest of us? Who gets to be in the club any longer?

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.