Times Puts ‘Guns & Ammo’ Magazine in Crosshairs

David Paulin, an Austin, TX-based freelance journalist, covered Hugo Chavez's rise to power while based in Caracas as a foreign correspondent. He also reported from the Caribbean while based in Kingston, Jamaica.


guns_and_ammo-620x412Guns & Ammo magazine has fallen into the liberal cross-hairs of The New York Times – the target of a bogus scandal the Gray Lady dished up as part of its anti-gun crusade.

“Banished for Questioning the Gospel of Guns.” So read the front-page headline calculated to shock the naïve and gullible. The article’s shocking revelation: Guns & Ammo has chummy relationships with advertisers and panders to its readers. That, of course, is how things work at all those specialty magazines that are chock-full of ads. Yet as the newspaper that helped elect Barack Obama sees things, there’s a nefarious conspiracy going on involving Guns & Ammo parent company InterMedia Outdoors and malevolent gun manufacturers — all of whom supposedly abhor free speech and will go to appalling lengths to advance an absolutist pro-gun agenda.

What sent The Times into its hand-waving frenzy was Guns & Ammo’s recent firing of long-time columnist Dick Metcalf, who had outraged advertisers and readers with a column titled “Let’s Talk Limits.” It argued that Second Amendment rights were not absolute. “The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be,” Metcalf wrote. “Freedom of speech is regulated. You cannot falsely and deliberately shout, “Fire!” in a crowded theater.”

Personally, I find nothing over the top about this statement, and many readers here would probably agree. But that’s not how Guns & Ammo’s advertisers saw things. They wanted Metcalf out, as did many of Guns & Ammo’s 400,000 readers who “threatened to cancel their subscriptions” and even sent the magazine death threats, according to The Times’ article by reporter Ravi Somaiya. Political fallout over the controversy also caused Guns & Ammo’s editor, Jim Bequette, to announce that he’d speed up his retirement plans and bring his successor on board ahead of schedule.

Yes, it’s all very sad when talented and well-intentioned people lose their jobs due to politics – and one silly mistake. But there’s also nothing to prevent Metcalf and Bequette from going to work for another magazine, one that would perhaps be a better fit for them. Perhaps they could start up their own publication.

Yet as The Times sees things, the shake-up at Guns & Ammo suggests dark forces are thwarting reasonable discussions at gun magazines about Second Amendment issues and, more specifically, that Metcalf’s departure “sheds light on the close-knit world of gun journalism, where editors and reporters say there is little room for nuance in the debate over gun laws. Moderate voices that might broaden the discussion from within are silenced.” But wait a minute: Couldn’t you say something similar about the dearth of people with conservative political opinions in The Times’ newsroom? How many of its reporters and editors are Republicans? Inquiring minds want to know.

Guns & Ammo, of course, operates just like other specialty magazines that depend on advertising dollars. “We take care of those who take care of us,” a publisher at one of the country’s most widely read aviation magazines used to tell his staff, according to a former boss of mine who, earlier in his career, had been one of that magazine’s senior editors. He recalled how the editor-in-chief at the time, a well-known aviation journalist and author, used to write scathing inter-office memos about new airplanes he’d flown, and hated — yet none of those negative critiques ever made it into his published articles, because this would risk losing advertising dollars. I heard these revelations while working as an associate editor at a “Consumer Reports”-type aviation for light-plane pilots: No ads allowed! And without ads, we were free to say whatever passed muster with the magazine’s libel lawyer. The Times, incidentally, described Metcalf, a former history teacher at Yale and Cornell, as “one of the country’s pre-eminent gun journalists.” Yet one example of a gun review by Metcalf on InterMedia Outdoors’ television show has the feel of an informercial; certainly not the type of journalism that would past muster at The Times; and yet The Times essentially puts a halo over Metcalf’s head to support its anti-gun agenda.

None of this is to suggest, to be sure, that magazines like Guns & Ammo write dishonest product reviews; but those reviews will definitely not read quite the same way as they would if done by gun magazines with a no-advertising policy; and nor would Guns & Ammo and other well-managed publications do anything to antagonize readers. By the same token, The Times would be a far different newspaper, and perhaps a more profitable one, if it wasn’t an echo chamber for liberal reporters and editors.

That the agenda-driven Times singles out and vilifies Guns & Ammo for doing what other specialty magazine do is no surprise. Perhaps the Gray Lady’s editors need to ponder their own biases — and to recall a truism from A. J. Liebling, the legendary writer at The New Yorker who observed: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

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  • Billiam

    I don’t read either, although, I did read the article by Metcalf. I’m a 2nd Amendment supporter, as well as a licensed CC holder. I agree with much of what he wrote. Of course, I also support the 1st Amendment, which, apparently, certain 2nd Amendment folks seem to have forgotten.

    • tic…tic…BOOM

      And First Amendment supporters seem to have forgotten about or refuse to acknowledge the importance of the Second Amendment, the one that can guarantee all of the Constitution and Bill or Rights.

    • Rob Hobart

      The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law.” Where, exactly, was a Congressional law involved in Metcalf’s firing?

      Nowhere, of course. You’re throwing out a tiresome false argument.

    • Drakken

      You have the 1st Amendment because of the 2nd Amendment, always keep that in mind, for an armed man is a citizen, an unarmed man is a subject, I am a free man.

      • HettyT

        As you point out, if we didn’t have the 2nd, we wouldn’t have the 1st.

  • tic…tic…BOOM

    If the NYT is so upset about Metcalf’s firing, let them hire him.

  • Sheik Yerbouti

    Yea, but was it a “silly mistake” or is something else going on? The readers asserted themselves because the character of the magazine looked like it was changing. Within a few years they’d be covering needlepoint. Or so it must have seemed. The editorial was foolish. Will I discuss cooking a pot roast in a vegan magazine? Not if I want readers and advertisers.

  • Edward Witherspoon

    Our Founding fathers stressed that a mind that openly read the truth as truth and opinions as thoughts and that together would lead this country to greatness. They also warned that hatred, bitterness and deception(which is untruth) would destroy this great nation. Deception greed and hate will only lead to degradation. WHERE ARE WE GOING?

  • Mark McDonald

    maybe they sound be suggesting gun safety classes for all purchases. just look at history, anything that the government takes control of ends up on the black market and the wrong people profit

    • HettyT

      Gun safety classes? I thought the BATF did that. ’8-)

  • NAHALKIDES

    One expects no better from the Times, but there’s a pernicious idea out there that Conservatives are somehow close-minded because we don’t want to continually debate the merits of political ideas which have long been settled, such as freedom vs. socialism or whether gun control is a good idea. Even Charles Cooke at National Review came to Metcalf’s defense, although he had to admit Metcalf was wrong in most of his major suppositions. Considering how besieged gun owners are in many places (indeed, in any place where Democrats rule unchallenged), I find it understandable that Guns & Ammo readers were angered when a magazine that should be defending gun rights unreservedly published Metcalf’s editorial, which sounded a note of capitulation to the gun-grabbers. Here is part of my response to Cooke:

    “Was it so outrageous that Guns & Ammo readers might expect better than that from a veteran columnist, or that the magazine should offer a full-throated defense of the right to bear arms? You criticize the readers for not wanting to be challenged; it might be more fair to say they did not expect to be challenged by those who purport to be on their side. Anytime they (or we) want to hear the arguments in favor of gun control, it’s not like we’ve got far to go (hello NYT, CNN, MSNBC etc.) – indeed, it’s hard to avoid the sanctimony and fatuity of the gun grabbers among us…

    So maybe Guns & Ammo readers, tired of mealy-mouthed politicians calling for ‘sensible regulation’ while secretly intending future confiscation, aren’t interested in hearing the ‘merits’ of how taking guns away from good people will reduce crime, and have little patience with states like Illinois erecting every possible roadblock to gun ownership and defensive usage they can (you neglected to mention that the only reason Illinois now has a concealed-carry law is because a judge ordered the State to adopt one, and Governor Quinn, who cannot be trusted, is opposed to concealed-carry). Maybe they know that licensing schemes will have the effect of preventing some people from being able to defend themselves in the future because they don’t have the time or the money to take such a course today, or maybe they don’t trust state officials (all Democrats) to avoid rigging the requirements when they know those same state officials would confiscate every gun in the State if they could get away with it.

    Maybe they had good reason to be angry at Metcalf and Guns & Ammo- and maybe you should think about that, before you start going all squishy yourself.”

  • Bill Gutmeiler

    Metcalf was fired because the magazine listened to a few crazed nutcases who sent letters condemning Metcalf’s article. He’s better off working with people who support the 2nd but do not foam at the mouth like LaPierre and Cox.

    • A Z

      What sort of Turing test should have you take?

    • Drakken

      Give the left an inch, they will take your arm, no more giving in, not now and certainly not anytime soon, period!

  • WhiteHunter

    As usual, the Left demands that we grant “equal time” on OUR podium, and equal space in OUR pages, to mendacious opponents and malevolent critics, in the name of “fairness” and “diversity of viewpoints.” Why is it that they never take a dose of their own medicine?

    There’s no further need to continue “debating” the Second Amendment’s completely unambiguous meaning by disputing the Left’s absurd and dishonest insistence that “the people” actually means “the National Guard” or “the police” in the Second when it means no such thing anywhere else in the Bill of Rights; or pointing out the absurdity of their idiotic, sarcastic “question” whether the NRA wants people–and certifiably insane ones at that–to be allowed to own heavy machine guns, Abrams tanks, or nuclear ICBMs in their garages; or their ludicrous claim that G&A has violated Metcalf’s “First Amendment rights” by firing him.

    These are all intentional red herrings, nothing more; and the Left’s real agenda–carried out one click of the ratchet at a time–has been known for a long time.

    If Metcalf had written an article evaluating, say, the respective accuracy of the .308 Win. round and the .30-’06, and then picking a favorite, he would certainly have touched off a lively debate, since each caliber has its loyal defenders. That’s the sort of controversy that G&A and its readers enjoy and look forward to.

    But that’s not what he did. Instead, he slyly joined the antis to challenge–however “reasonably”–the right of honest, peaceable, law-abiding citizens to continue to own firearms in compliance with existing laws, and suggested that our side might need to make some further “reasonable” “concessions” to those who, in the end, undeniably seek to outlaw ownership altogether.

    Problem is, the concessions are ALWAYS demanded from OUR side, and we get nothing of enforceable value in exchange. And then–surprise!–they’re always back again, the next year, demanding MORE “reasonable concessions.”

    Fool me once…fool me twice…. We’ve learned the lesson, and our answer is, as it must be, a flat NO!

    • Robert_Morrow

      Right – how many times has NYT let Larry Pratt write a 1,000 word Op-Ed? Ever? How about Alex Jones? Or me?

  • A Z

    The NYT is going to join Newsweek on the ash heap of history. Back in 2009 Newsweek had a cover of “We are all Socialists Now”. They went out of business.

    The NYT is already in a death spiral. It had to sell The Boston Globe at over a 90% loss. They need the money to shore up their fiscal position.

  • Docent

    I read Metcalf’s article, and I read his faux apology. Whether deliberately or out of deep ignorance, he misrepresented the meaning of the phrase “well regulated” in the Second Amendment, and misapplied it the general possession of firearms. Moreover, he took the position of further capitulation on gun rights. Not a negotiation or compromise where both sides give up something, but a one-sided relinquishing of rights. So of course he angered a lot of Guns & Ammo readers, and customers of its advertisers. Metcalf is entitled to his opinion, of course, but he is not entitled to have people pay him for it.

  • BlackDog

    I don’t read the NYT. Who are they again?

  • Robert_Morrow

    Those guys can go work as columnists for the gun grabbers at the New York Times. Or blog on the internet like me.

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    If the neo-commies got their way to ban guns, free speech would be next.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      The Obama administration blamed the dumb “mohammed” video for the Benghazi attack,

      and if they could would ban the Free Speech video too.

  • http://www.shugartmedia.com/ Chris Shugart

    Professional jealousy perhaps? According to an AdWeek article published in August of this year the circulation of G & A, as well as a couple of other gun magazines has risen sharply. I wonder if the NYT can make a similar claim.