Hopefully you weren’t sipping a hot beverage at the moment you turned to the back page of your December issue of Guns & Ammo. You probably would have done a spit-take.
Printed on the mag’s hallowed Backstop page is an editorial titled, “Let’s Talk Limits.” It touts gun regulations. Yes, you read that right. The editorial suggests that gun regulations would not equal infringement of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Guess how several readers reacted. If you said “in total agreement,” you’d be very wrong. The magazine has fired Dick Metcalf, the contributing editor behind the editorial, presumably for writing it, according to The Bang Switch, the blog of the Military Arms Channel.
An open letter from Jim Bequette, editor of Guns & Ammo, states, in part: “I made a mistake by publishing the column. I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and ask your forgiveness.” He added that he owes “each and every reader a personal apology.”
So, admittedly, it was Bequette’s mistake, but Metcalf gets sent to the firing squad.
A glance at the Guns & Ammo Facebook page gives you a peek behind the curtain at the absolute, unbridled anger from the readership that led to this decision. On one hand, kudos to Guns & Ammo for presenting a potentially unpopular take on a polarizing topic. Debate is good. On the other hand, you’re Guns & Ammo.
This is like Bread & Butter magazine suggesting that its readers consider switching to pitas and hummus. Then again, what did the brass at Guns & Ammo think would happen? Rule No. 1 in any communication-related field: Know your audience. Mind you, Metcalf wasn’t calling for guns to be made illegal. He wasn’t saying we should ban all guns, destroy them and pretend like they never existed. He presented an informed perspective on the topic of gun regulations in a gun magazine.
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For too many journalists, “fairness” is something that’s laughed off when their opinions differ from those of the publisher. So we ask you, readers, from an editorial perspective (not a political one, please): Did Metcalf overstep in his writing, or was he simply made a scapegoat?