When an Atlantic piece came out profiling the former gun writing guru Dick Metcalf, we reached out to PASA Park gun range to see if Mr. Metcalf was still the President there.
None other than Dick Metcalf responded.
“Yep . . . still Founder, President, and Chairman of the Board. I also cut the grass . . .” he wrote.
In an exchange of email, we received more than we could have ever hoped to get and frankly, we feel that we might have been a little too one-sided castigating Metcalf about his appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival – as reported by The Atlantic. More on that in a moment.
He expressed admiration for Guns Save Life, a regional gun rights group that formed twenty years ago on the opposite side of Illinois from where Metcalf lives. Initially, GSL’s predecessor group were a half-dozen people meeting in the basement of a restaurant as a county sub-committee of the Illinois State Rifle Association. Today, Guns Save Life is its own non-profit corporation, nearly two thousand paid members strong and meets in four cities each month, turning out as many as 500 people total.
Metcalf wrote that he loves our “Burma Shave”-style highway signs, including one just into Illinois on the western edge that proclaims, “DIALED 9-1-1 / AND I’M ON HOLD / SURE WISH I HAD / THAT GUN I SOLD / GUNS SAVE LIFE.COM”. Today, we have about two dozen sets of those signs, each sporting a similar witty four-panel message with “Guns Save Life.com” on the fifth and final panel. Over a half-million people see the messages each and every day.
He declined to give us permission to run large swaths of his emails explaining his position, citing our most recent blog post (SEE DICK RUN HIS MOUTH: Dick Metcalf disparages gun owners at Aspen Ideas Festival) on The Atlantic piece’s contents. “It doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence” that we would treat him squarely. Fair enough. We’ve savaged him pretty thoroughly based upon the information we had available.
In the interests of fairness, thought it reasonable that we report his rebuttals.
He repeatedly noted that he was unaware of The Atlantic story until we brought it to his attention. It was titled, “Why We Can’t Talk About Gun Control“. Written by James Hamblin, it reported on Metcalf’s voluneer appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which was sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.
Yes, Metcalf wrote that he knew the audience would be hostile, but viewed it as an opportunity courageously confront anti-gunners on their own ground with an open exchange of ideas.
The former Guns & Ammo writer indicated what struck him most about The Atlantic story was “how artfully the reporter managed to cast everything discussed in a bad light”.
A few points he made:
He asked how many would raise their hand if they have ever lived in a household with guns. Two-thirds raised their hands. A third of the audience said they personally owned a gun. He told them he believed many who hadn’t raised their hands were lying. “A lively exchange followed,” Metcalf wrote.
The audience in Aspen, he wrote, kept blaming the NRA for the “gun problem”. Metcalf’s answer: “Claiming the NRA is responsible for American firearms ownership is like blaming the AARP for the fact Americans are getting older.” He noted that the NRA represented about six percent of gun owners, at best. None of the culture war issues (gay rights, marijuana, etc.) are regarded by average Americans as potentially life-and-death issues compared to the right to own firearms and its role protecting their families’ safety.
About those NRA numbers? Metcalf noted that it’s long been a tactic of both sides to inflate their membership numbers to look as strong as possible, not that he specifically doubted the NRA’s claim of 5 million plus current members.
Metcalf wrote that his answer to a question asking why he didn’t support more “common sense” gun laws was that we should either enforce the ones on the books or repeal them. Federal laws with mandatory prison time are “unenforced by federal policy”. To which, he reported, one participant sputtered “Well, then we should pass some new laws REQUIRING those laws to be enforced!”
About training, Metcalf wrote that he “asked the audience why, if firearm safety and training requirements were of such paramount importance, they didn’t favor firearms training be available in the public school curriculum to any student who wanted it?” More sputtering was the response. Yet another good point.
Metcalf summarized, “The Atlantic article was not an accurate report of the overall tenor of the session.”
“The pro-gunners who have read about it have seen me cast as a Bloomberg Quisling,” Metcalf added.
He cited bad blood between him and The Truth About Guns management for further exacerbating the terribly biased nature of The Atlantic article.
As for the idea of him looking to work for the dark side? “Ludicrous,” he wrote.
Metcalf noted that GSL used both TTAG and The Atlantic for information, but that he was not given an opportunity at the time to offer his perspective.
We can’t dispute that.
At the end of one of his emails, there was one topic alluded to in The Atlantic that he wanted to elaborate on. “Crayon people”. Quote: “…anybody who sends anonymous death threats (to me, or to Phil Robinson, or to the children of the guys who bid on the Namibia rhino cull last year), ARE crayon people. But to say I was using that term to describe gun-owners or NRA members generally is ludicrous.”
There you have it.
Is Dick Metcalf a Bloomberg Quisling?
I doubt it. At the same time, his ability to earn a living by writing about gun culture and guns is a thing of the past.
Frankly, I suspect that I / we owe Dick Metcalf an apology for savaging him so viciously without giving him adequate time to offer his input.
Dick, I’m sorry for that.
At the same time, I’m still not pleased about your G&A screed that led to your dismissal.
In a coming Dick Metcalf Responds, Part II: We’ll give you his side of the story relating to his sacking at Guns & Ammo, along with the unedited story he wrote, but only part of which was published.