Thursday, November 07, 2013

When words are weapons

Here's an interesting juxtaposition of sentences. And by interesting I mean, really, really sad:

"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," he added. 

Readers threatened to boycott the magazine and cancel their subscriptions until Dick Metcalf was fired.

This excerpt from Talking Points Memo makes it sound like the readers of Guns & Ammo were upset by an editorial urging gun owners to exercise caution. Which would be an irresponsible use of context if it weren't absolutely true.

In his editorial, Metcalf argues that firearms can be regulated because the Second Amendment has the word "regulated" in it. He makes a strong case for the difference between regulation and infringement, noting that the First Amendment has numerous exceptions against dangerous and inciteful speech. Furthermore, he contends, reasonable requirements are required for many pursuits (such as driving) that ensure public safety and don't result in outcry in the street over lost freedoms. Metcalf approaches his argument with the seasoned experience of a gun owner, user and advocate. At no time does he advocate confiscation, nor does he even call for more gun control. All he's really saying is that training is a good idea — or, more to the point, that training doesn't mean the end of freedom. As far as gun-control editorials go, it's pretty moderate.

Of course, that's the problem with it. Gun rhetoric is not about moderation. Anything to the left of all access, all the time, for everyone, is un-American. Gun enthusiasts have turned the Second Amendment into a bunker to hide behind, not welcoming even the slightest probe into its wording. Forget liberals and other gun-control advocates — these people can't even tolerate one of their own wanting to tap on the brakes ever so slightly.

But that's to be expected from the gun nuts. I expect better from the editorship of a magazine.

Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette issued an apology for the article, apparently sorry that reason infected its pages for once. He further announced that both Metcalf and himself are through after long tenures at the magazine. Bequette knows where the magazine's (and the culture's) loyalties lie — not with the truth, or with debate, but with complete reinforcement of gun owners' worst politics and worst fears. And also with the gun sellers that make their money off of these impulses.

The sadly ironic thing is, people like Metcalf are exactly who the gun movement needs to legitimize its cause. The culture is increasingly circling the wagons at a time when it needs moderate voices more than ever. In doing so, its motives become ever clearer — and off-putting — to the general public. The gun crowd may crow freedom, but its rigidity in deed screams the exact opposite.

No one expects Guns & Ammo to be a bastion of unbiased journalism. But it should have told the truth at least one more time.

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