It was a magazine column designed to generate a discussion of gun rights.
“Way too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement,” the column said. “The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, all need to be.”
Titled “Let’s Talk Limits,” the column was published in the December issue of Guns &Ammo, the well-known magazine based in Florida, and written by longtime contributing editor Dick Metcalf.
And it enraged readers.
Over the last few days, opposition to Metcalf’s stance reached a boiling point. On Wednesday, the magazine’s editor, Jim Bequette, posted an online letter of apology that addressed Guns &Ammo readers and announced that both he and Metcalf would no longer be working at the magazine.
Although he had been planning to step down Jan. 1, Bequette announced he would resign immediately, hastened by the outcry.
In his apology, Bequette wrote that he had thought the column would “generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights.”
“I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and ask for your forgiveness.”
In the column, Metcalf makes the argument that there is a difference between infringing on rights, and regulating them. All constitutional rights, including those guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment, are regulated to some degree, he wrote.
“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.”
Readers immediately went to the magazine’s Facebook page to vent their anger:
“Good bye to your mag Thanks to Metcalf and his article!”
“I will not be buying Guns &Ammo anymore. Mr. Metcalf’s editorial could have been summed up as, ‘I am from an anti-gun state. I don’t know what freedom means.’ I will not support a gun magazine that publishes talking points from the Brady Campaign.”
“I’ve cancelled my subscription and I’m NEVER coming back, and I have been a reader since 1964 and a subscriber since 1970. It is unconscionable for a GUN magazine to publish this kind of dribble that Metcalf spread!”
Bequette yielded to that anger, writing in his apology, “Dick Metcalf has had a long and distinguished career as a gun writer, but his association with Guns &Ammo has officially ended.”
A response from Metcalf was posted on the website The Outdoor Wire:
“If a respected 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, and for our Cause.
“Do not 2nd Amendment adherents also believe in Freedom of Speech?”
Bequette, in his letter of apology, said that Metcalf’s views directly opposed the tradition of what the magazine supports, and clearly conflicted with the readers’ ideas also.
“Our commitment to the Second Amendment is unwavering. It has been so since the beginning. Historically, our tradition in supporting the Second Amendment has been unflinching. No strings attached.”
“In publishing Metcalf’s column, I was untrue to that tradition, and for that I apologize. His views do not represent mine — nor, most important, Guns &Ammo’s either.”
“I understand what you believe in when it comes to gun rights, and I believe the same thing,” he wrote.
Many expressed sharply differing reactions to Bequette’s letter on Twitter:
You knew Guns &Ammo was going to back down to the gun nuts &fire Dick Metcalf, but kudos to him for speaking truth to the insane asylum.
— Hussain Rahim (HuRa) November 7, 2013
Dick Metcalf needs to remember who his audience is when writing in Guns &Ammo.
— 2A-JP (flyhooks) November 7, 2013
The common-sense article which got Guns &Ammo editor Dick Metcalf fired. Guns aren’t the problem; gun nuts are. http://t.co/xBNX0CMV3K
— K.W. Leslie (KW – Leslie) November 8, 2013