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Volume 15, Issue 12 ~ March 22 - March 28, 2007


Zealots pellet me with wrathful words

Bill: Let me explain this to you in terms you will understand … you, you lying son-of-a #####.

—C.D. Tavares: [email protected]

C.D. is among many range riders who took offense at last week’s column suggesting fellow outdoor writer Jim Zumbo should not have lost his popular TV program, his job as gun editor of Outdoor Life, official communications with the four-million-member National Rifle Association — all for ridiculing those brave hunters who sally forth with assault-type weapons to shoot fierce prairie dogs just for the fun of it.

“Zumbo got canned because he ####ed off people … you, too, will #### off people,” e-mailed C.D.

Most of these readers are from out of state; they are not regular Bay Weekly readers. They are zealots mobilized by a cherished cause.

Freedoms We Cherish

To understand all the fuss, we’ll need to refer to the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. Read them carefully. All writers except C.D. referred to the Second. Curiously, none mentioned the First.

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Second Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Each amendment guarantees us cherished freedoms.

In appropriate and inoffensive words, Jim Zumbo expressed his First Amendment rights of free speech and press. Others concerned about their rights under the Second Amendment squashed him like a bug.

The gun is mightier than the sword, but is it mightier than the word?

Fan Letters

From the computer of someone who signs himself the Rev. Joel Osbourne of somewhere out there comes a tender message of God’s love and compassion for the sinner: “It sounds as if Bill Burton wants to become the next Jim Zumbo. If he truly does, I imagine that can be arranged.”

Sam, who’s address is none of my business, starts with “What a fool Bill Burton is,” then reminds me I “wouldn’t know freedom if it bit me in the ###. The only thing that should be banned are you goofy liberals.” Me, a liberal?

A Georgia shooter who signed off as Doc Holiday accuses this “elitist” writer of turning up his nose at black powder rifles and pistols “because they have no ‘sporting’ purpose.” For years now, all I use afield is a Thompson center-combo 50-caliber muzzleloading rifle for big game and the same with a shotgun barrel for birds and small game.

Shawn Dodson of the state of Washington, who says he’s a former cop and Navy submariner, reminds me “in the shooting sports one does not take aim at other shooters.” His words prompt me to wonder if he whould stand idly by while another “shooter” used unethical tactics that would bring scorn to our ranks. This fellow Navy man doesn’t care that I was underwater for the Navy in WWII, a Seabee in UD.

Dialogue Not Demagogues

Now, let’s get serious.

My high school football coach talked about how, more than 100 years ago now, the young sport of football was in big trouble. Because of all the serious injuries, even deaths, there was an outcry to ban it.

Theodore Roosevelt — an avid big-game hunter who I rank as one of our five top presidents — stepped in to save the sport. He knew there had to be dialogue, so he got the opposite sides together. Football rules were modified, opposition eased. Look at football today.

In these trying times, we need dialogue, not demagogues. What we need is another T.R. to corral all three sides: those who demand no bans on arms, others who want all arms outlawed, and the third whose opinions are in between. Then thrash this mess out.

At the offset, that referee would have to say The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms as the First Amendment does free speech — but when any freedom is guaranteed there must be some basic rules. Freedom of speech can’t mean one can threaten or harass another; freedom to bear arms doesn’t mean you can carry arms into an airport or use them to intimidate others.

The Second Amendment clan has some good points; the likes of the Brady bunch reflect a growing sentiment, one that cannot be ignored. The more the anti-shooters are viciously lambasted, the more support they accrue from the in-betweens, most of whom have no real objections to guns or hunting — but they do want safety. With dialogue, there could be give and take.

Lulled into False Security

I first pulled a trigger 72 years ago at the age of eight, and I have hunted ever since and will to the end. I have and still vigorously defend the rights of hunters and ownership of firearms. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where we’re headed.

For 50 of the 60 years I have been in journalism, I have covered the outdoor beat and witnessed many changes. When I arrived at The Evening Sun 50 years ago, handgun licensing was about the only issue; Today, it’s handguns, assault weapons, ownership of firearms, concealed weapons, hunting itself.

All the while, the NRA has refused to acknowledge that others might have a few good arguments. All the while, gun users keep losing ground as the opposition swells. Many of us have been lulled into false security, believing the almighty National Rifle Association will preserve our rights. But the record speaks otherwise. Our rights are eroding.

Best for Both

I am unwilling to stand by and allow a relentless take-no-prisoners NRA to stonewall via intimidation what chances I have to own and use firearms in what future I have left afield. I refuse to be lumped in with those who taunt with slogans like When they take my gun away it will be from dead, clammy hands.

I want my hands to be alive on the trigger, the barrel in the direction of a flushed ruffed grouse. I also want non-shooters to enjoy law and order and safety. I’ve been around long enough to learn that isn’t going to come about without dialogue. Enough said.

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