You remember Dick Metcalf, right? How could you forget? Dick was the Guns & Ammo editor who’s now a former editor as a result of the stance he took on Second Amendment infringement in his now infamous December column (below). And no, we didn’t get Dick fired. G&A cut bait when some (OK, a lot of) advertisers threatened to pull out. Anyway, Dick’s also a founder and president of PASA, one of the great shooting venues in the country. It seems that in the wake of the controversy, some of his fellow members feel the same way those G&A advertisers did. In response, Dick sent the following letter to PASA’s membership. Thanks to one of them for passing it along to us . . .
This is going to be a long letter.
The week before Christmas the PASA club office received the following email from a PASA member in response to his routine membership renewal notice:
“Because of Dick Metcalf’s anti-Second Amendment article in Guns & Ammo and his affiliation with PASA I’m not sure I want to be a member of PASA.”
It did not surprise me to see this, considering the enormity of the uproar that followed the appearance of “The Backstop” column for the December 2013 issue of Guns & Ammo. What did surprise me is that it took so long for the first one to arrive.
I suspect there are other PASA members who share this person’s views, who simply choose not to write and express them. At the same time, many members probably don’t even know about the controversy, because they do not read consumer firearms magazines or follow internet firearms forums, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.
Nonetheless, I believe all PASA members deserve to hear from me on the subject. Hence, this general email, and the request it includes.
Following below are three items:
1. A copy of the original G&A Backstop column as it was submitted on September 13th. (I also have a pdf file of the actual column page as it appeared in Guns & Ammo, which I will be happy to send to anyone who wants it. I did not attach it here because it is 4Mb in size, and many of you may not have the software to read pdf files.)
2. My comments on the uproar as prepared for the national Outdoor Wire and Shooting Wire two days after Guns & Ammomanagement terminated my association with all InterMedia publications and television shows without allowing me any opportunity to respond.
3. The “For the Record” statement I have been providing to the national news media who continue to request/demand interviews or TV appearances to further their own anti-gun agendas.
The original column topic was assigned/approved by G&A five months in advance. The column was submitted six weeks in advance of press date. It was edited, reviewed, vetted, and approved by the G&A editorial staff and G&A publisher and sent to press. The editors promoted it with a headline at the top of the December G&A cover, and the title of the column as it appeared in the magazine, “Let’s Talk Limits,” was written by the editors, not by the author. (The word “limits” actually appeared nowhere in the column itself.)
If you have read the December 2013 G&A column and share the view that is “anti-Second Amendment,” I would like to ask you a personal favor:
Would you reply and tell me exactly what the column said that you believe to be “anti-Second Amendment?” I am completely sincere in this request. I ask, because nobody has yet been able to show me anything in that column that can even remotely be construed as “anti-Second Amendment.” I will hold anything you say as totally confidential.
I’m not talking about the distortions and untruths that have littered the internet forums and Facebook pages since mid-October, but what the column actually said.
If you have not read the column I hope you will take the time to do so (below), as well as the statements that follow.
I am deadly serious about wanting to know your thoughts. I would hope a discussion might ensue.
Founder & President
BACKSTOP 12/13: INFRINGEMENT VS.REGULATION (Metcalf)
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads, verbatim, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Note carefully: those last four words say “shall not be infringed.” They do NOT say “shall not be regulated.” “Well regulated” is in fact the initial criteria of the Amendment itself.
I bring this up because way too many firearms owners and advocates for an armed citizenry still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. Fact is, all Constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be. Freedom of Speech is regulated: you cannot falsely and deliberately shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Freedom of Religion is regulated: a church cannot practice human sacrifice. Freedom of Assembly is regulated: people who don’t like you can’t gather an anti-you demonstration on your front lawn without your permission. And it is illegal for convicted felons or the clinically insane to keep and bear arms.
But a substantial number of pro-gunners nonetheless argue that any firearms regulation at all is by definition an infringement. If that were true, then the authors of the Second Amendment themselves should not have specified “well-regulated.” The real question is when does regulation become infringement? As Shakespeare put it, there’s the rub. And on that issue, reasonable people may reasonably differ.
From 1976 thru 1990 I wrote the “Firearms Law” column in our sister publication, Shooting Times. During those same years I worked with U.S. Senator Jim McClure, Congressman Harold Volkmer, and NRA-ILA Executive Director Neal Knox to draft the 1986 Volkmer-McClure Firearm Owners Protection Act, testified before Congress (and numerous state legislatures) on firearms law issues, and taught college seminars on the history of constitutional law (I’m a historian, not a lawyer).
I also received bags of mail every year, a substantial portion of it from readers who were upset that I supported the passage of concealed-carry laws. (In 1976 less than half the states had concealed-carry statutes.) These readers typically argued (I’m paraphrasing) that “The Second Amendment is all the authority we need to carry anywhere we want to,” or, “The government doesn’t have the right to tell me whether or not I’m qualified to carry a concealed gun.” I tended not to let myself be drawn into that argument, but I always wondered whether those same people believed that just anybody should be able to take a vehicle out on public roadways without any kind of driver’s training program, driver’s test, or driver’s license.
Yes, I understand that driving a car is not a right guaranteed or protected by the Constitution, but to me the underlying principle is the same. I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a Constitutional right to acquire, keep, and bear Arms, but I DO NOT believe they have a Constitutional right to use them irresponsibly or unsafely. And I DO believe their fellow citizens, by the specific language of the Second Amendment itself, have an equal right to enact regulatory laws requiring them to undergo adequate training and preparation for the responsibility of bearing Arms should they choose to do so.
I’ve witnessed too many examples of ignorant, unsafe, and dangerous behavior on too many shooting ranges, even by “experienced” gun-owners, to believe otherwise. And we’ve all read too many accounts of legally armed individuals dealing with the horrific personal, moral, and legal consequences of not being properly trained or prepared when confronted with a bad situation.
This year, my Illinois homeland became the 50th state to enact a concealed carry statute. It’s a “shall-issue” law, but it requires 16 hours of training to qualify for a license. Many of my fellow Illinois gun-owners say that’s excessive. They say it’s inherently an infringement. I don’t. But I’d like it to be GOOD training.
I write this on the day the Illinois Supreme Court in People v. Aguilar voided the arrest of a man in his friend’s yard in Chicago because he was holding a pistol. The Court’s ruling ended by saying “Of course, in concluding that the second amendment protects the right to possess and use a firearm for self-defense outside the home, we are in no way saying that such a right is unlimited or is not subject to meaningful regulation. That said, we cannot escape the reality that, in this case, we were dealing not with a reasonable regulation but with a comprehensive ban.”
When DOES regulation become infringement? Good question. I don’t think that requiring 16 hours of training to qualify for a concealed carry license is infringement in and of itself.
But that’s just me . . .
COMMENTARY FOR THE SHOOTING WIRE:
When the present controversy erupted a week ago, I was immediately asked by Guns & Ammo/InterMedia management to write the following “clarification and elaboration” on the December Backstop column for use on the G&A website. I immediately did so, but management decided to wait and see how the situation developed. I was also asked to hold off on making any comments in any other forum. Then, after Paul Erhardt’s article appeared in the Shooting Wire yesterday [11/06/13], InterMedia was contacted by two major firearms industry manufacturers, stating they could do no longer do business with InterMedia if it continued with its “present personnel structure.” Within hours, Jim Bequette was replaced as Editor of Guns & Ammo, and my relationship with all InterMedia publications and TV shows was terminated. My response was never published.
How do I feel about that? Disappointed.
If a respected 35-year veteran 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 or ask questions about a politically sensitive issue . . . then I fear for the future of our industry, our Cause, and our Country.
Do 2nd Amendment adherents no longer believe in Freedom of Speech? Do Americans now fear open and honest discussion of different opinions about important Constitutional issues? Do faceless voices from cyberspace now control how and why business decisions are made?
From its inception as “Cooper’s Corner” in 1986, the back page column in Guns & Ammo has been intentionally designed to address controversial issues, and to invite reader response. By that standard, the December edition certainly succeeded–some might say, too well. But our intention was to inspire a discussion, not to incite a riot (which is illegal under laws regulating the 1st Amendment).
In today’s political climate within the community of firearms owners, even to open a discussion about whether 2nd Amendment rights are, or can be, Constitutionally regulated at all, is to be immediately and aggressively branded as anti-gun and anti-American by outspoken hard-corps pro-gunners who believe the answer is an absolute “NO!” And yes, I am fully aware of the many and varied historical/legal definitions of the term “well-regulated,” and how they are used and misused.
I am also fully aware that the different rights enumerated in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and following amendments are different, and are regulated differently. But they are all in fact already regulated in some form or fashion, hopefully appropriate to their particular provisions. I further clearly understand that owning or driving a vehicle is not a constitutional right, and that keeping and bearing arms is. But both involve issues of public safety, which is why both are of great and immediate interest to all mainstream Americans, for much the same reasons. Should we not dare speak of both in the same sentence?
Let me make myself clear (again): I believe without question that all U.S. citizens have an absolute Constitutional right to acquire, keep, and bear arms.
At the same time, how can anyone deny that the 2nd Amendment is already regulated by innumerable federal, state, and local statutes, and always has been? Even the Supreme Court’s widely applauded Heller and McDonald decisions affirming an individual right to keep and bear arms, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Moore ruling overturning the Illinois ban on concealed carry, specifically held that other firearms laws and regulations do pass constitutional muster.
Do we all agree with every part of those rulings? Of course not. I personally do not. But they are now part of the organic fabric of the Constitution, and we ignore them at our peril. Should we now hold that those rulings themselves are unconstitutional?
All 50 states now have individual statutes or constitutional provisions regulating concealed firearms carry. The vast majority require state-issued permits, and most require some type of training to qualify. Are all those laws unconstitutional infringements of the 2ndAmendment? Should we entirely oppose their existence? Should we obtain concealed-carry licenses anyway? Are we ourselves participating in an unconstitutional process if we do? On these issues reasonable gun-owners may reasonably differ (although you wouldn’t know it from what erupted on the Guns & Ammo website, G&A Facebook pages, and many other firearms forums following the appearance of the December Backstop column).
Myself, I would rather carry legally, than carry illegally and risk prison. Given the fact an Illinois concealed carry law now does exist, I have no problem spending 16 hours of my life under its training requirement. And I will. I am glad Illinois finally passed a concealed carry law. Compared to previous Illinois law, it’s not an infringement, it’s a liberation. It’s a first step.
Do I believe training is a good thing? Of course I do. Do I believe that to require such training is unconstitutional? No more than I believe it is unconstitutional to require the “militia” to be “well-regulated” in the first place. Do I believe the onerous fees and complicated procedures imposed by Illinois’ anti-gun legislators to reduce the number of applicants are an “infringement?” Of course I do. But our foot is finally in the door and I’m applying for a license anyway. That’s just me.
To those who have expressed their vigorous opposition to the content of the December column (and to my continued existence on this planet), I would pose these few questions:
1. If you believe the 2nd Amendment is subject to no regulation at all, do you therefore believe all laws prohibiting convicted violent repeat criminals from having guns are unconstitutional? Should all such laws be repealed?
2. If you believe the 2nd Amendment is subject to no regulation at all, do you therefore believe laws prohibiting the bearing of arms when falling-down drunk or when wasted on drugs are unconstitutional? Should all such laws be repealed?
3. If you believe the 2nd Amendment is subject to no regulation at all, do you therefore believe all state laws establishing concealed-carry license requirements are unconstitutional? Should all such laws be repealed?
4. Do you have a concealed-carry license anyway?
5. Are you thereby turning your back on the Constitution?
I would hope this discussion could continue.
FOR THE RECORD:
By anyone’s definition I’m a hard line firearms guy. I believe the Second Amendment means exactly what it says. Just as I believe all other Amendments in the Bill of Rights mean exactly what they say. All of them affirm absolute rights. I said nothing whatsoever to the contrary in Guns & Ammo.
But unlike freedom of speech, or freedom of religion, or freedom of the press, the Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms is today the focus of a bitter battle between those who believe deeply in that particular Right, and those who believe the Second Amendment is an obsolete 18th Century artifact that should be severely curtailed or even repealed.
Both extremes in this battle claim to represent the true hearts and minds of the American mainstream. Mainstream voters will ultimately decide the issue. Legislators who enact (or don’t enact) restrictive firearms laws are elected by those voters. Presidents, who appoint Federal Court Judges to rule on the constitutionality of those laws, are elected by those voters. The Senators who approve the appointments of those Judges are elected by those voters.
At present, supporters of the Second Amendment have the American mainstream voter on their side. Nearly two-thirds of the 109 new state firearms laws enacted in the year following the Newtown Horror actually eased gun restrictions and expanded gun-owners’ rights. During that same period there was no significant federal firearms legislation at all.
But 2014 will be a pivotal year. Opponents of the Second Amendment promise to pour unprecedented energy and funding into coming elections to change that course. Second Amendment supporters vow to fight those efforts to their last breath.
Neither side can benefit from extremism.
When Second Amendment supporters argue it is unconstitutional to prohibit convicted felons from having guns after they have served their sentences, the American mainstream stops listening. When Second Amendment supporters argue it is unconstitutional to require any training whatsoever before carrying a concealed firearm in public, the American mainstream stops listening. When radical anti-gun and anti-hunting voices aim death threats at the children of those who would bid on a license to legally cull an African game animal and donate the proceeds to endangered-species conservation, the American mainstream cringes. When a TV network bans a duck hunter from its airways in the name of political correctness, the American mainstream rebels.
All Americans want to find ways to keep horrors like Newtown from happening. But Americans need solutions, not political placebos or public relations gestures. And certainly not more hate speech.
Not since the middle of the 19th Century has there been a greater need in this nation for reasoned, civil discourse instead of extremist rhetoric. Never has it been more important for our public officials and our corporate leaders to make rational decisions instead of bowing down to the strident voices of a radical few.