Via John Richardson, I saw that Dick Metcalf published a response to all the turmoil he created with his recent gun control column in Guns & Ammo. I applaud Jim Shepherd for giving him the space to do it since I think we can learn quite a bit from his response. I’ll start with the easy and obvious parts that had me rolling my eyes.
Do not 2nd Amendment adherents also believe in Freedom of Speech?
Ah, yes, rather than address the specific issue, he resorts to implying that those who disagree don’t believe in freedom. This is a message to Dick: The Bill of Rights is a limit on government powers to silence you (in the case of the First Amendment), not a promise for any job you want with any private company you desire to work with and a free pass to say anything you want or behave any way you want without consequence from other private citizens. By trying to play this card, Metcalf is going into what I like to call Full Dixie Chicks Mode. The Chicks were outraged that their political rantings weren’t fully accepted by their audience and were stunned that the same audience simply decided not to buy future products. It’s the same situation here. The Bill of Rights does not provide a guarantee that someone has to keep giving you money when you say something that they fundamentally disagree with.
Do Americans now fear open and honest discussion of different opinions about important Constitutional issues? … In today’s political climate within the community of firearms owners, even to open a discussion about whether 2nd Amendment rights can be 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!”
This is denial, folks. The fact is that serious conversations on various gun control schemes and whether or not they pass constitutional muster happen all of the time in our issue. This site has played host to many of them, and they don’t devolve into the simple scream of “NO!” that Metcalf claims happens when someone even opens the discussion. Look at the kind of legal and academic discussions that happen at the Volokh Conspiracy on this issue. The fact is that we, the audience that Guns & Ammo needs to sell to, have already been having these discussions for years. Don’t blame the audience for how they read your column, Dick. Evidence abounds that the audience is more than capable of having the discussions you claim they can’t handle.
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 regulated in some form or fashion, hopefully appropriate to their particular provisions.
Okay, this one made me laugh out loud. Ask Sebastian, I couldn’t hold back the chuckle. Dick, can you please enlighten me on the extensive regulatory system at either the state or federal level on what concessions we citizens have to make on quartering of troops? I’d like to know more about these regulations that apply to how we compromise on the Third Amendment.
This actually highlights a larger issue that Sebastian has noticed as well. It’s pretty clear that Metcalf thought he could just spout off amendment numbers without really thinking about what he was saying. He probably never expected that a reader would question why he said what he did about the Third Amendment because he probably assumes that his readers know little to nothing about the Third Amendment. That’s where he, and much of the industry, continues to misjudge the audience.
I’m not going to argue that every pro-gun person is a published academic or a scholar on obscure constitutional law. However, the pro-Second Amendment audience is far more serious about the issue today than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Like any political movement, there are certainly people who only understand it at the bumper sticker level, but the vast majority have a better understanding of the legal complications than they did two decades ago. The shifting landscape and the realization that no matter what the anti-gun groups try to claim, they really are trying to come after pretty much every gun ever made, have forced that education on most gun owners.
Even looking at the questions that Metcalf poses to “challenge” his opponents in the end of his response, it seems clear to me that he didn’t stop to choose his words carefully. He opens up the door to debate on whether or not licensing carry is a violation of the Second Amendment, but then ends by asking if the possession of a license by a citizen is therefore a violation itself. That doesn’t even make sense, and it’s certainly not an argument that I have ever seen made anywhere hosting a serious debate. I’ve seen it argued that participating in the licensing system is empowering a perception that discretionary licensing of rights is acceptable, but never to say that the mere possession of a license is the actual constitutional violation. The fact that Metcalf apparently sees no distinction between those two arguments is just baffling and certainly leaves me with the impression that he is the one who isn’t serious about having a discussion on the gun issue.
When I read Metcalf’s response, what I see is a man who is feeling extremely defensive, and not at all ready to acknowledge that the industry and world around him are changing. I’m not sure that any sentence sums up his disconnect from the community any better than this:
Do voices from cyberspace now control how and why business decisions are made?
It’s as if he doesn’t even comprehend that those “voices” are the very customers and readers of Guns & Ammo and purchasers of the firearms products advertised in the pages. Not everyone may be a subscriber, but they are all part of the target market.
The industry is shifting. The markets are adapting. The audience, as a whole, is more sophisticated. I think the evidence suggests that it’s Metcalf who isn’t ready to have a serious discussion on these topics, not his audience.