The Potowmack Institute

Update on Jim Zumbo
Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2007 11:58 PM EDT

ZUMBO UPDATE — Those who are active in Second Amendment issues will recall the great Jim Zumbo flap in February. In case you have slept since then, the problem arose when the famed outdoor writer used his Outdoor Life blog to say that the M-16/AR-15 families of rifles are terrorist guns that have no valid place as hunting weapons and should be outlawed.

To say he stirred up a hornets nest would be a slight understatement.

Most of his sponsors dropped him, his television show was put on hiatus and he was essentially fired from Outdoor Life magazine within a few days. Furthermore, he managed to bump Benedict Arnold and Adolph Hitler down several notches on the America’s most hated list. Zumbo has since apologized profusely and tried to make amends. Some have forgiven and forgot, while others continue to vilify the hapless scribe. We take a moderate view, considering his viewpoint ill considered but after having also made a few self-inflicted literary wounds, we know that writers sometimes hit the ‘send’ key too quickly before wholly considering their words.

We dredge up this unpleasant incident because of an article that appears in the August issue of S.W.A.T. magazine ( In the issue, Mr. Zumbo writes of his reeducation concerning the black guns in a tactical rifle class held at the Boone County Sheriff’s Department shooting range. I thought the story was worth a few comments because I was often standing next to Zumbo during those three days. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also write for the magazine)

Personally, I found Mr. Zumbo engaging and contrite about his comments. He realizes that he screwed up royally and probably wishes his modem hadn’t connected on the fateful evening after a daylong hunt. Without being critical of Zumbo’s writing skills that easily dwarf the meager word mangling talent of Yours Truly, I was a little disappointed in the article. It seems as if he wanted to explain the whole mess rather than to focus on how his attitude changed concerning “military” weapons. Natural, I suppose, under the circumstances.

However, I think it shortchanged the transformation of Mr. Zumbo. During the opening hours of day one, Jim was as nervous as the proverbial prostitute in church until he finally ‘got it.’ After that point, he was as eager and enthusiastic as any shooter on the line.

OK, it wasn’t a typical class. Between the post-shoot steak dinner catered by a professional chef to the (legal) cannon and automatic weapon firing demonstrations, there was a concerted effort to help Zumbo understand that AR-15 shooters and hunters aren’t crazed right-wing militants waiting for an apocalyptic one-world government takeover. They are just folks who enjoy shooting. Just like me, and you and Jim Zumbo.

I think the class was a big success, measured by the grin on Zumbo’s face as he stood ankle-deep in smoking shell casings after shooting a machinegun. I honestly believe he walked away with a better understanding that no one in the shooting world should be thrown off the bus when it comes to gun control issues.

I believe in Jim’s conversion. Hopefully now, instead of wasting time kicking a dead horse on internet chat boards, some of the critics can spend a few minutes flexing their political muscle in support of the Second Amendment. IT’S OFFICIAL — Aug. 8, 2007 was a momentous occasion for wildlife enthusiasts across this country. It was the day that our national symbol, the bald eagle, was taken off the endangered species list.

In the early 1960s the numbers of bald eagles had plummeted to less than 400 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states. Now, it is estimated that there are over 10,000 pairs nesting in every state of the continental U.S.

The first time this writer ever saw a bald eagle in the wild was nearly 20 years ago along the Minnesota-Canada border. Against a beautiful china blue sky, I saw one of the majestic birds make a lazy turn over our isolated camp on Moon Lake. The effect was awe-inspiring and those seconds are still one of my most breathtaking and cherished outdoor moments. Now, within the last two years, I have personally seen eagles soaring in downtown Lafayette and watched their huge nests in several Northern and Southern Indiana locations. Moreover, with the ban on the pesticide DDT, better legal protections and changing public attitudes, most birds of prey are abundant and widespread. Witness Peregrine falcons soaring over the concrete canyons of downtown Indianapolis.

As I frequently mention, I believe the “good old days” are really right now. The prairies still aren’t black with buffalo and passenger pigeons don’t blot out the sun but in spite of all the doomsayers, wildlife is better off than it has been for generations.

Get outside and enjoy.
Brent Wheat’s outdoor column appears in Wednesday’s Journal Review. He can be e-mailed at

The hysteria reported in the articles below finds a context with the view expressed in this article of May 21, 2007.

Article published May 21, 2007
Gun control
The juvenile and pointless debate continues
By Adam Weinstein
My father is a gun nut. He collects them, new ones and old ones, and he derives unfathomable glee from shooting, cleaning and studying them. Thanks to him, I can field-strip an M-16, shoot a Winchester '86 and tell the difference between a matchlock and a flintlock.

But when I turned 21 and applied for a Florida carry permit like Dad's, he didn't do cartwheels or take me window shopping for a double-action hand cannon. His only acknowledgment was to take me out to the side of a road and pull me down beside the remnants of a recently flattened possum.

"Dead," Dad intoned, "is dead. No replays, no extra lives, no do-overs. Just like this road kill."

This was not mere eccentricity on my pop's part. He wanted me to acknowledge a simple truth: Guns are lethal instruments, and they are not for everybody. Not long after, I decided that, except for an occasional weekend trip to the range, guns were not for me.

All of which makes it hard for me to understand why, even after a heartbreak like the one at Virginia Tech last month, the debate over gun control remains as juvenile and pointless as ever.

On one hand, you have the National Rifle Association claiming to speak for all gun owners. Apparently, though, its constituency doesn't include my family of gun owners, since we believe in more rigorous background checks, gun traces, and limits on the ownership of watermelon-exploding .50-caliber Barrett sniper's rifles.

On the other hand, you have one-note liberal groups like the Brady Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, who consider gun ownership too insidious to deserve the same protections afforded free speech or due process.

Lost in the middle, I fear, are gun owners like my father - and other middle-of-the-road citizens - who appreciate the right of self-defense, but want it to come with greater responsibilities. In the marketplace of ideas, gun-policy moderates don't even rate a kiosk.

Why is it so hard to reach reasonable compromises on gun ownership?

One scholar has an answer. Gary Kleck, a criminology professor at FSU, spent the last three decades researching the relationship between guns and violence in America. But his latest research focuses on the gun debate itself.

Its conclusion: The dialogue on gun rights has been hijacked and slickly packaged by self-styled culture warriors. Rather than weighing evidence, these factions encourage citizens like you to take cues from your membership in an in-group.

"People support gun control," Kleck says, "because they're in the cultural groups that are hostile to gun owners." The data suggest that those groups include Northerners, Jews and Catholics, women and the upper middle classes. Among their members, the gun debate isn't about assault weapons, mental-health checks or Teflon bullets: It's about the senselessness of gun ownership in their worldview, period.

Women, in particular, are likely to see "alleged defensive gun use as fraudulent," Kleck says, where men are more likely to approach guns as "useful tools." Likewise, the data show Southerners, Protestants and the economically depressed are probably pro-guns - more due to tradition than reason.

Kleck maintains that the culture clash in gun policy is especially obvious in his workplace, the ivory tower. Academic researchers fit the cultural mold of anti-gun Americans. Consequently, he says, "Many will say, 'We don't care how many surveys have been done (that are) inherently in favor of self-defense as a justification.' Facts don't affect your cultural animosities."

That's a shame, because the facts in his earlier studies provide food for thought. Guns, he concluded, are "instruments that have the same impact on aggression and defense. In both cases," he says, "they empower the possessor." In other words, guns make crime easier - but they also make self-defense easier.

Could it be possible that pro-gunners and anti-gunners are both right? Absolutely. There's plenty of fertile ground for compromise.

"Most gun owners favor moderate controls," Kleck believes. Likewise, "There's a certain amount of sympathy for gun owners among rank-and-file ACLU members," he argues. And he should know: He's a member of the ACLU and Amnesty International, both historically anti-gun groups.

The problem is, there are big incentives to the game of culturally divisive politics. In this atmosphere, most Americans won't take time to sift through the complex statistics collected on crime and guns. They'll just take marching orders from interest groups led by folks "like them" - groups that will steer them away from thoughtful reflection and toward the slopes of righteousness.

So how do we rise above the rhetoric for a progressive but constitutionally fair gun-policy compromise? It all depends on our efforts to promote "an educational system that produces a truly engaged citizenry," Kleck suggests. But it won't be easy. As he puts it: "I'm not optimistic about people putting aside likes and dislikes that they've held for decades.",5_2_WA22_OUTD OORS_S1.article

Lake County Outdoors Assault or hunting rifles? You decide

February 22, 2007
THERE IS A bit of a rift going on in the outdoor sporting world between hunters and gun enthusiasts, which sometimes are one in the same.

The raucousness started when longtime outdoors writer Jim Zumbo of Outdoor Life magazine posted a story online that said assault rifles— he also called them terrorist rifles— had no place in the hunting community, even suggesting that game departments ban them from the prairies and woods.

According to The Shooting Wire web site, he tried to apologize, attributing his remarks to being tired following a long day of hunting coyotes in extreme weather conditions.

Outdoor Life announced it was discontinuing the "Hunting With Zumbo" blog "for the time being" due to the "controversy surrounding Jim Zumbo's latest postings."

Their notice went on to remind readers "Outdoor Life has always been, and will always be, a steadfast supporter of our Second Amendment rights which do not make distinctions based on the looks of the firearms we choose to own, shoot and take hunting."

Assault rifle enthusiasts were quick to call for boycotts of products associated with Zumbo, according to The Shooting Wire, which included Remington. Zumbo, a National Rifle Association member for 40 years, quickly found his sponsors bailing.

"There was little, if anything, that would assuage an angry horde of electronically mobilized AR (Assault Rifle) fans. They considered Zumbo's remarks as being tantamount to a sellout, with Zumbo offering up "black rifles" as a sacrificial lamb for anti-gun forces," said the wire service.

The rancor continued with The Shooting Wire founder Jim Shepherd, saying, "We don't owe him our loyalty, our support, or our forgiveness, but we owe him for motivating us to tell the industry they'd better start paying attention to the silent majority.

"Even if you call us 'shooters' or 'paper punchers' or 'plinkers' or whatever, there are many more of us than there are hunters. And we're neither terrorists nor fools."

This is a rift that could continue to grow, and maybe this split was a long time coming. As one bumper-sticker type sign that used to hang in The Island in Libertyville said, "The Second Amendment ain't about duck hunting."

But hunters and shooters regularly mix at shooting clubs like the one in Bristol, Wis., and you have to wonder if animosity between the groups could grow. Shepherd says Zumbo's opinion is common in hard core hunter circles.

I remember one time hunting a piece of land near Richmond and some young guys from Chicago came out as my brothers and I were leaving. One of them had an unusual gun for hunting, a sawed off shotgun. We thought that was stupid, but the Second Amendment doesn't make any distinctions, right?

The AR rifles are accurate weapons and could easily be used for hunting big game like deer, but I'm sure gun manufacturers would suggest a better weapon.

So maybe Zumbo was a dumbo for even going there in a hunting article. These rifles are used in competitions or bought for home security, but is supporting a ban on them the first slide on a slippery slope of having guns outlawed all together? The Assault Weapons Ban was re-introduced in congress this month.

So, now I've written myself into a corner, of sorts. I know someone who shot an automatic (illegal) AK-47 who said it was really cool. He's not and never was in the military. Another friend recently told me of how his daughter, never having shot a gun before, was taken to the range by her boyfriend and "had a blast" shooting different handguns, and, I think, rifles at targets. No blood ... big fun.

But then I go back around to deceased Chicago columnist Mike Royko's column where he suggested that the best in home security for grandma would be hand grenades. If grandma heard someone in the basement, why take the chance of confronting the intruder with a shotgun, or any type of gun.

So now I'm back in that corner again. How much is too much. And if you give a little, will you lose a lot? Is the gun industry going to push more and more "black rifles" and their handgun counterparts because it is a growth field and hunting is supposedly becoming old hat?

So many questions in this controversy, and I'm not finding a bunch of immediate answers. Except, "Leave my gun alone: is different than "Leave my RPG" (Rocket Propelled Grenade) alone.

There has to be a line somewhere. Just where does it start? 5

What every presidential candidate should know about gun owners

By Pat Wray
Writers on the Range

Article Last Updated: 02/26/2007 08:24:43 PM MST

The right of Americans to bear arms, as stipulated in the Second Amendment to our Constitution, will get a microscopic examination by presidential candidates in the coming months. I won't pretend gun owners are a homogeneous group - anything but - but we do share some characteristics and opinions that wannabe presidents should know about:

Responsible gun owners consider guns as tools. We don't own fully automatic weapons. We use guns for hunting, target shooting and self-protection, not necessarily in that order.

We apply for and receive concealed-weapons permits, but it's not because we plan to carry a gun around. We want to be able to legally transport guns in our vehicles without leaving them in plain sight, as the law requires. We store most of our guns in safes, but often keep one nearby at night because we are responsible for the safety of our families.

We are unwilling to bet our lives on the rapid response of police. We watched as police abandoned entire sections of Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots and knew that the stores most likely to escape looting and destruction were those protected by owners with guns. We are products of our country's history: Our ancestors warded off Indian attacks and raiders and we are prepared to do the same with the different threats we face today. We teach our children about gun safety and respect at an early age, but we don't leave guns around where kids could find them.

We gun owners believe in and obey the nation's laws regarding illegal use of firearms. We want to see those laws aggressively enforced and transgressions even more aggressively punished, but we do not support the creation of new laws designed to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. We are willing to consider creative new ways to identify weapons that have been used for criminal purposes and wish the National Rifle Association would cooperate more in this effort. Some of us also wish the NRA cared as much about preserving wilderness as it does the right to bear arms - any arms.

We know restrictive gun laws will not prevent events like the killings at Columbine or Thurston high schools any more than restrictive licensing of drivers will halt road-rage attacks. We cannot legislate an end to personal or societal mental illnesses.

We have no problem with the present system of registration of guns sold by licensed dealers, but we oppose blanket registration of all guns for two reasons. First, we don't want the government to be able to take our guns away from us, as totalitarian regimes have done elsewhere. The second reason is similar, but runs on a deeper current, one rarely discussed. We are aware that at some point in the future, we or our descendants may need to fight against our government or an invading force.

I don't want to be melodramatic about this fear, but it is ingrained in American culture. It runs through our blood from the docks of Boston through Lexington and Bunker Hill. It was seared into our collective soul in Chancellorsville, Bull Run and Antietam. We watched and learned from victims of Hitler and Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Slobodan Milosevic. We studied the Quislings and the Vichy. We bled with the Jews and the Tutsis; we are bleeding now with the tribes being slaughtered in Darfur. Chief among all of these lessons is the certain knowledge that an evil government or an occupying force can come to power anywhere. It could happen here.

It is a mistake to confuse gun owners with extremist groups like the Montana Freemen and other anti-government organizations. We have almost nothing in common with them. Many of us are military veterans with a deep and abiding loyalty to this country. We don't stockpile exorbitant amounts of ammunition or train for guerrilla action. But we retain the option of defending ourselves, our families and our country if the need arises; our guns give us that option, and anyone who wishes us ill would need to take us into account.

Some gun-restriction advocates are trying to say the Second Amendment's protections refer only to a standing militia. They think gun ownership should be restricted to the military. We reject this argument. Our nation was built on individual freedoms, including the right to own guns. We hope presidential candidates get to know us as thoughtful citizens who happen to hunt and shoot and believe in protecting ourselves.

None of these characteristics make us dangerous or overly important. They just make us worth listening to. ---

Pat Wray is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colo. ( He writes about the outdoors in Corvallis, Ore.

How could this happen?


By Pat Wray
For the Gazette-Times

Something very strange happened in the world of outdoor communication this week. One of America's best known hunting writers slipped and metaphorically cut himself — so a few thousand of his closest friends ate him alive.

Jim Zumbo, who made a name for himself— and developed a large following— writing about big game hunting for the past 40 years, was on a Remington Arms-sponsored Wyoming coyote hunting trip. He learned during a conversation with one of his guides that a lot of people use military style rifles (M-16 and AK-47 knockoffs) to hunt prairie dogs and coyotes. This surprised Zumbo and he wrote about the situation in his Outdoor Life-sponsored blog. In his posting, Zumbo called the knockoffs "assault" and "terrorist" rifles. He also said their use was bad for the image of hunters and that "game departments should ban them from the prairies and woods."

Within hours, gun owners from around the world were lathered up and sharpening their Internet knives. Remington Arms took the first cuts; they were swamped by messages from people who threatened to boycott Remington products because of their connection to Zumbo. Remington didn't hesitate, pulling their sponsorship of Zumbo's television show from the Outdoor Channel. Soon thereafter, other sponsors, including Mossy Oak and Cabela's, had severed their relationships with him. These were not just symbolic departures ... these were outfits that regularly gave Zumbo money, lots of it, and now it's gone. Even Outdoor Life, the venerable outdoor magazine for whom Zumbo has written for decades, fired him as their hunting editor.

In a few short days the career of the best known hunting writer in America was served in small bloody pieces to a crowd of vicious, vengeful, vitriolic jackals. This is worth analysis.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I don't like Jim Zumbo. He likes me even less. We've had a couple professional disagreements over the years that have spilled over into our personal lives. Nonetheless, he has always been a staunch proponent of shooting and hunting, as well as an exceptionally capable communicator in several different genres.

Second, I don't agree with his assessment of the military-style rifles, commonly referred to as "black" rifles. They are just semi-automatic rifles, like a hundred other makes and models; you have to pull the trigger each time you want to shoot one round. If people like the military design, I see no reason they can't use them. And the calibers common in those rifles, while not ideal for big game hunting, are certainly effective enough for varmint hunting.

What's interesting about this entire situation is how quickly it escalated into a feeding frenzy that destroyed a good man's career. The easy answer is the Internet. We've seen examples before, blogs and e-mails developing into uncontrolled windstorms that destroy everything in their paths. The danger of such a thing happening is a fact of today's world and no one, even the most mighty, is immune.

But we need to look beyond the Internet, into the genesis of the anger and fear that fueled the Internet attacks. If we look closely, we will find the National Rifle Association, or NRA. For decades the NRA has fostered a climate of fear and paranoia among gun owners. They have hammered home the message that everyone is out to take our guns and that compromise is tantamount to treason. They created an attitude within their membership that anyone who disagreed was an enemy and the best defense was a good offense. Nowhere has that message taken root as strongly as within the owners of the military style rifles, and it was they who came after Zumbo in their thousands.

It is ironic— and tragic— that the NRA's message, so effectively delivered for so many years, has come back to ruin the professional life of one of their own. And it was done in a strange, alternative universe, in which the firing squad commands used for his execution were "READY ... FIRE ... AIM!"

Pat Wray can be reached at

Walla Walla

NRA's bully tactics to silence differing views is shameful This should be a warning to NRA members. The organization turns on loyal members if they dare question NRA policy or speak their minds.

By the Editorial Board of the Union-Bullein

The leaders of the National Rifle Association are so obsessed with the perceived threat to the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms that they won't tolerate anyone who strays from NRA doctrine - even if it's one of the NRA's most famous and loyal members.

Jim Zumbo, a 40-year NRA member, has made a name for himself as host of a TV show about big game hunting in the West and as a writer for Outdoor Life magazine. He also had endorsement deals from gun makers.

But Zumbo dared to express an opinion that differs with the NRA's unbending stance that all guns are good, including military-style assault rifles.

Earlier this month Zumbo used his blog on the Outdoor Life Web site to criticize the use of assault rifles for hunting, especially for mowing down prairie dogs.

"Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity," Zumbo wrote. "As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. ... I'll go so far as to call them `terrorist' rifles."

The reaction from the NRA and those it controls has been, to quote The Washington Post, "swift, severe and unforgiving."

Zumbo's weekly TV program on the Outdoor Channel, his career with Outdoor Life magazine and his corporate sponsorship with Remington Arms Co. have either been terminated or suspended. The reaction to Zumbo's statement are as overblown as they are absurd.

First of all, Zumbo is correct. Hunters simply don't need military-style assault rifles to vaporize prairie dogs or anything else. It is the definition of overkill.

Second, terrorists do use military-style assault rifles. No, they aren't the only people who use them, but when terrorists use them the results are tragic.

Zumbo was simply trying to make the point that hunters don't need to use assault weapons nor do they need the bad publicity that comes with using the same weapons terrorists use.

Zumbo has since apologized and vowed to go hunting with an assault rifle, but the NRA and its followers have shown no mercy. Apparently Zumbo must be crushed as an example of what happens when you cross the NRA.

The NRA, in announcing it was suspending its professional ties with Zumbo, warned the members of Congress to pay attention to the punishment inflicted on Zumbo.

Frankly, this should be a warning to NRA members. The organization turns on loyal members if they dare question NRA policy or speak their minds.

NRA members should be ashamed that bully tactics are being used to silence those who disagree— even slightly— with the NRA.

If the NRA's position on assault rifles is indeed the correct one, the organization should welcome debate, not fear it.

Famous hunter did not deserve his fate

The biggest news in the outdoors world right now is the fall of Jim Zumbo, the world's most-famous hunter, who fell victim to the Pro-Gun Right's double standard in his ill-thought Feb. 16 blog on the Outdoor Life's Web site.

Associated with the famed outdoors publication for three decades and Hunting Editor since 1979, Zumbo had the audacity to say in print (actually, cyberspace) that rifles patterned after assault weapons had no place in hunting. He called them terrorist weapons and wished aloud that the various state game departments would outlaw them from hunting.

The fallout was immediate and widespread. Amid waves of protest to the blog, Remington Arms canceled its sponsorship of his Outdoors Channel television show.

Cabela's severed all connection with him, as did Mossy Oak. Even Hi Mountain Jerky and Seasoning walked indignantly away from its sponsorship. On Friday, Outdoor Life accepted Jim's resignation.

Understand that Zumbo's printed opinion echoes stances I share and have heard repeatedly in hunting camps— often from fellow outdoors writers— for the last 30 years. The difference was that Zumbo said it in public, and they wouldn't.

Never mind that we of the pro-gun faction preach the difference between weapons and hunting firearms when the public needs to be impressed. But point out the same fact in a hunting or shooting forum and you'll be vilified.

Anyone who's handled an M-16 as a combat weapon recognizes the AR-15 as a twin without the select-fire switch. It's an effective and thus popular target rifle, but of dubious value as a hunting tool. On the other hand, we're guaranteed the right to bear arms, presumably of our choice.

While the Constitution guarantees the right to own firearms, one wonders how popular the AR-15 and its ilk would be if there wasn't a looming political presence intent on taking them away.

Zumbo simply wasn't allowed to state his opinion. And that's a shame. Not only a shame because it may be the end of a storied 42-year writing career, but more so because of the humiliation this caring, compassionate man has to endure.

I'm proud to call Jim Zumbo my friend— today just as much as last month. Nothing he's said or done would ever change that. There are those who'll cry "name dropper" when a hack from a small town newspaper claims an affiliation with a icon like Zumbo. So be it.

We roomed and traveled together when he was the crowd draw for the NRA's Great American Hunters Tour and I was a face on the undercard in the early 1990s.

He lived in Wyoming and I was working in the West at the time. We were further bonded as native New Yorkers— he being raised in Newburgh. His father still lives in Sacandaga, has a sister in the Albany area and one of his daughters lives here in Ithaca.

Above all, Jim Zumbo is not only a significant figure in the hunting world but also a heck of a guy. In an industry that lionized alcoholic egomaniacs like Jack O'Connor and Elmer Keith, Jim richly deserved his fame and popularity.

In every hunting camp we've shared, at every show or conference, he was invariably friendly and engaging with those around us— from Inuit families to fawning camp followers to kids seeking autographs to bumbling waitresses to corporate types to crusty celebs like General Chuck Yeager and Hank Williams Jr.

I absolutely defend his right to say what he felt. The First Amendment to our Constitution carries just as much— if not more— weight than the Second.

He doesn't deserve anything that's being thrown at him by fanatics, some of whom weren't even born when he first joined the NRA 40 years ago.

He immediately realized that speaking his mind was a mistake in this closely bonded and ever-paranoid industry and he apologized for it before offering his resignation.

Public memory is short. We forgave Smith & Wesson's leveraged sellout of the industry— although it took a change of ownership combined with the passage of time. We forgave old Bill Ruger's "traitorous" plea to Congress to ban high-capacity magazines, although that benevolence was hastened somewhat by his $1 million contribution to the NRA Museum.

The fanatics aren't going to "forgive" Jim any time soon, but someone has to understand how ludicrous— and unfair— it is to vilify this fine man.


Originally published March 1, 2007

Wharton: Guns-rights crowd misfires in targeting columnist
By Tom Wharton
Tribune Columnist
Article Last Updated: 03/21/2007 07:57:55 PM MDT

I met Jim Zumbo about 30 years ago, during a canoe trip on eastern Utah's White River. He was a Vernal-based Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist starting to pursue an outdoor writing career.

Our paths would cross many times, mostly at outdoor writer meetings. And, though we might have disagreed on topics such as wolf introduction in Yellowstone, I respected him.

That is why I was saddened to see him lose his television show and longtime gig as Outdoor Life's hunting columnist over comments made in a blog.

Zumbo said what he viewed as assault rifles had no place in hunting.
"We don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them, which is an obvious concern," he said on the blog, adding that game departments would do well to ban the use of these types of rifles.

Zumbo seemed to offer little more than an opinion on a rifle and concern for the image of hunters.

But gun owners quickly turned on him.

Despite a quick apology, the damage was done. Zumbo lost his television show and Outdoor Life column.

"We respect Mr. Zumbo's First Amendment right to free speech, and we acknowledge his subsequent apology and admission of error," wrote Todd Smith, editor-in-chief of Outdoor Life. "However, Outdoor Life has always been, and will always be, a steadfast supporter of all aspects of the shooting sports and our Second Amendment rights, which do not make distinctions based on the appearance of the firearms we choose to own, shoot or hunt with."

The whole flap disgusts me.

I am a gun owner in support of the Second Amendment. I like that the National Rifle Association promotes gun safety and the shooting sports, but its support of anti-conservation lawmakers disturbs me. After all, what good is my shotgun if the politicians supported by the NRA continue to give anti-conservation politicians a pass if they oppose gun control?

When an ethical hunter like Zumbo gets fired for offering an opinion on the ethics of using a type of rifle, it is a sad commentary on the increasingly right-wing nature of gun owners and magazine editors who view even the mildest criticism of a firearm as an assault on the Second Amendment.

The discussion should not be about whether assault rifles should be banned. It should be about hunter ethics. To ask an ethical question about using a type of rifle to pursue game does not make a person an anti-hunter or opponent of the Second Amendment.

TOM WHARTON can be contacted at His phone number is 801-257-8909. Send comments about this column to

Count to 10 before firing off angry letters concerning gun control

Brent Wheat

There are certain things we can all predict with reasonable certainty: the change of seasons, the sunrise, the tides and the flood of crank letters whenever a columnist writes about gun control.

In case you missed last week's column, we discussed the huge flap over comments made by mega-outdoor writer Jim Zumbo. In about 50 ill-conceived words of his popular Internet blog, he destroyed his 40-year career by calling the AR-15/M-16 rifle platform a terrorist weapon that served no sporting purpose.

Our column last week took Zumbo to task but tried to point out the positive aspects of the situation, namely that the flap highlights the need for all shooting enthusiasts to embrace each other and present a unified front against gun control. If we can destroy a man's livelihood in the space of a few short days, surely we could kill some of the written stupidity that is passed off as gun control legislation.

Please re-read that last paragraph because it is perhaps the greatest and most significant legacy Zumbo will leave behind from an otherwise stellar career.

After I printed that column, the predictable three-phase flood happened yet again. First, came the complimentary letters, then the nasty letters and then the bizarre string of rants from people who didn't really read the column and felt it important to accuse me of being Sarah Brady's boy-toy.

Firearms enthusiasts and the "gun lobby" are often criticized as being "knee-jerk" and "reactionary." Let me assure you those criticisms are well earned.

I say the following not to prevent future rambling letters about my supposed love affair with Hillary Clinton and one-world government but rather to help positively change the political process in our favor: quit shooting from the hip!

When concerned and politically active citizens confront an insult to our second amendment rights, I urge them to stop, ponder, consider and investigate the issue before firing an acid tongued diatribe about things not well understood.

We often accuse liberals of being unreasonable and emotion-driven. Folks, I think we need to look in the mirror too. To borrow a famous quote that I hate: "Can't we (gun owners) all just get along?"

Wheat, based in Lebanon, writes a weekly outdoor column. He can be reached via e-mail at

Blogger shoots his mouth off with assault-rifle post


Published: March 4, 2007 Last Modified: March 4, 2007 at 09:20 AM

Gun writer Jim Zumbo www-shot-his-mouth-off and ended up in a raging, national blogoversy earlier this month. Now the 67-year-old shooting editor for "Outdoor Life" is out of a job.

All of this for penning these words in a blog on

"The guides on our (coyote) hunt tell me that the use of AR and AK rifles have a rapidly growing following among hunters, especially prairie dog hunters. I had no clue. I call them 'assault' rifles, which may upset some people. I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles.

"In my humble opinion, these things have no place in hunting. We don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them, which is an obvious concern. As hunters, we don't need the image of walking around the woods carrying one of these weapons. To most of the public, an assault rifle is a terrifying thing. Let's divorce ourselves from them."

I admit to sharing something with Zumbo on this one. I, too, find unsettling the appearance of some of the firearms modeled on assault rifles.

Then again, as a regular bicyclist and occasional road runner, I'd have to say the same things about Hummers and Suburbans. On a slippery road on a winter day, there is no more "terrifying thing'' than to see some woman with a death-grip on the steering wheel pointing a Suburban in your direction.

Repeat this observation over beers with friends and it's funny. Put it down in print and it's liable to create a firestorm. It can too easily be taken as an unfair attack on women drivers in the same way Zumbo's comments were viewed as an unfounded assault on the owners of assault-style rifles.

For the record, I think most Anchorage drivers are bad— female and male. And I think trying to legislate the appearance of things— including firearms— is pretty much a waste of time.

Zumbo has since confessed he just wasn't thinking when he sat down to start blah-ging about banning "ugly guns,'' as some have called assault rifles. As a result, he ended up demonstrating three facts of the new communications age:

Blogs, though seldom read regularly by anybody, can sometimes be read by almost everybody.

Virtual world or real, the written word remains just as explosive, sometimes more so, than the audio-video word.

Words don't fire writers; editors do.

Zumbo overlooked these things, penned a few words so stupid as to be impossible to defend.

His big mistake started with that "terrifying thing,'' which is really nothing more than a semi-automatic action encased in an ominous looking frame. The reality is that the only difference between an assault-style rifle like the semi-automatic AR-15 (the civilian version of the M16) and a regular semi-automatic rifle like the Ruger Mini-14 is looks.

I use the Mini-14 as an example here because it is one of the more popular hunting weapons in Bush Alaska. Personally, I consider the Mini-14's .223- caliber cartridge underpowered for shooting caribou, but because both the rifle and its ammunition are comparatively cheap, some low-income people feel strongly otherwise.

It is worth noting the Mini-14 was designed as an assault weapon but is now packaged primarily as a semi-automatic "ranch rifle,'' though that can be easily changed. Swap the wooden stock for a plastic folding stock, replace the 10-round magazine with a 30-round magazine and you have in your hands a weapon that looks like an "assault rifle."

A true "assault rifle," of course, isn't limited to being fired bang-bang-bang with each pull of the trigger. A true "assault rifle" will go bangbangbangbang, machine-gun-style, if you pull the trigger and hold it.

The Mini 14 has to be illegally modified to fire that way, as do all other assault-style rifles sold to the general public.

Theoretically, of course, any semi-automatic can be modified to shoot like a machine gun, including the old Remington Model 81 my late grandfather used to hunt deer in Minnesota four decades ago.

First produced around the turn of the century and discontinued by Remington in 1950, that rifle didn't look much less ominous than the sporterized SKS semi-automatic (a variation on an old Soviet assault rifle) still available today.

That people knowledgeable about these things and only slightly paranoid about gun control reacted strongly to Zumbo's comments is easy to understand— not to mention people who simply like assault-style weapons purely because they are fun to shoot or look frightening.

I'd guess many Alaskans would oppose giving up their Mini-14s because someone doesn't like the appearance of similar-looking or -functioning weapons.

When the blog hit the fan, Zumbo seemed to grasp this:

"The last few days have been an educational experience," he wrote in an effort at damage control.

"My ill-conceived inflammatory blog, as all of you now know, set off a firestorm ... Looking back, I can't believe I said the words "ban" and "terrorist" in the context that I did. I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that.

"I really can't explain it, maybe because I just summarily dismissed the firearms in question in my mind when I saw them in magazines and catalogs.

"I shot one last year off a boat when fishing in Alaska. To tell the truth, it was fun and I enjoyed it immensely ...'' he said as he went on and on in an unsuccessful attempt to defend what it is people do in so many blogs:

Shoot their mouths off. Often without much thought as to what they are saying.

Sometimes with the sole thought of being inflammatory, as if simply yelling loudest is going to make one's point of view more easily understood or one's ideas better.

Zumbo's fate illustrates the a danger in doing that.

Fire away enough with a semi-automatic blah-blah-blahg and you might shoot yourself in the foot.

What will be interesting to see is how long it takes for the wound to heal.

This shooting did, after all, provide Zumbo name recognition far beyond a small group of hunters and shooters.

Outdoors editor Craig Medred is an opinion columnist. Reach him at 257-4588. n

He got zumboed
A Register-Guard Editorial
Published: Sunday, March 4, 2007

Listen up, ladies and gentlemen. The Word of the Day is "zumbo." It can be either a verb or a noun.

As a verb, "to zumbo" means to annihilate the reputation of anyone who suggests that there is any class of firearm that doesn't directly contribute to the preservation of American liberty. As a noun, a zumbo is someone who commits professional suicide by saying something that angers the "pry my gun from my cold dead fingers" Second Amendment shock troops.

This colorful contribution to the lexicon of gun politics comes courtesy of Jim Zumbo, who until a couple of weeks ago was one of the most respected outdoor writers and big game hunting advocates in the nation. A 40-year member of the National Rifle Association with a top-rated weekly TV program on the Outdoor Channel, Zumbo was on a coyote hunt in Wyoming sponsored by Remington Arms when he shot his career in the heart.

Upon learning from one of the guides that semi-automatic military-style rifles based on M-16s and AK-47s were commonly used to hunt coyotes and prairie dogs, Zumbo - a traditionalist when it comes to hunting weapons - decided to take issue with the practice on his Outdoor Life-sponsored blog. He posted this passage, which, faster than a speeding bullet, transformed his last name into a new word:

"I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. ... I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles."

Bang! The response from the owners of such weapons was astonishing in its fury. More than 6,000 e-mails barraged the Outdoor Life Web site demanding that Zumbo be fired. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Zumbo resigned. Sponsors immediately deserted Zumbo's TV show, which hasn't been on the air since.

But hell hath no fury like an assault rifle owner scorned, and they weren't finished zumboing Zumbo yet. The NRA jumped into the ring like an outlaw tag-team wrestler. It suspended all ties with Zumbo and alerted its minions in Congress to pay close attention to Zumbo's fate.

A threatened boycott of Remington Arms, a longtime Zumbo sponsor, produced an instant divorce. Zumbo apologized profusely and promised to go hunting immediately with an assault rifle, but nothing short of his professional ruin would appease the incensed gun owners. It looks as if they have succeeded.

The losers lost more than the winners won in this ugly episode. Print and broadcast outlets that should have stood behind Zumbo based on clear First Amendment principles allowed themselves to be brow-beaten by a Second Amendment lynch mob. So much for protecting the Constitution. 850.xml&coll=7

Oregon hunters mostly back writer's stance against AR-15s
Sunday, March 04, 2007
The Oregonian
T here is certainly no lack of support for Jim Zumbo in Oregon.

Last week's column about Zumbo following his comments on an Outdoor Life blog comparing AR-15s and other "black rifles" with terrorist assault weapons pulled the scab off a fresh wound.

Unlike the cyber backlash from gun enthusiasts that shot Zumbo out of the saddle, most of those who wrote The Oregonian were appalled (the word appeared several times) by the reaction of Outdoor Life, the National Rifle Association, Remington, Gerber, Mossy Oak and other companies that first professed to respect his right to an opinion . . . then crushed him for it.

Take The Outdoor Channel off the list, by the way. A spokesman said Thursday that while Zumbo's regularly scheduled show is on temporary hiatus, it has not been canceled. The network is simply trying to figure out how to remove the ads of those who severed ties with Zumbo.

For the most part, Oregon hunters seem genuinely concerned about the image of hunting and the inappropriate use of modern military weapons for the sport. Jim McConnell of Milwaukie can remember taking his shotgun to school with him in 1959 in rural northeast Marion County, stashing it in a neighboring barn and then hunting his way home. Teachers, he said, wouldn't allow guns in the school but didn't call the cops, either.

A year or two ago, while hunting in northeast Oregon, McConnell and a partner came across a camouflaged apparition with a hogleg pistol on one hip, a Bowie knife on the other and a rifle and double bandoleer of ammunition across his chest. "We put a ridge between us in a hurry," he said. "He was overdone and I think it's that overdoing it that Jim Zumbo was referring to."

Bob Salma of Troutdale notes: "Zumbo's point is a valid one. "The public perception generated by hunters using rifles and other high-tech devices that would make a SWAT unit envious is not a positive one.

"Comments of a similar nature were made by the great Outdoor Life hunting writer Jack O'Connor some 40 years ago. The difference is that during O'Connor's time Outdoor Life was managed by people possessing courage and common sense." Tom Barron of Beaverton sees a deeper problem dividing gun advocates. "Whatever happened to free speech or his history of devoted service?" Barron wrote. "Such outbursts are not the result of discussion about types of rifles, but of insecure egos threatened by the truth. On one level, the punitive response underlines the real truth of his opinions."

Is there room for both sides?

"I was saddened and disappointed," wrote Dan Corum of Gresham. "Saddened that such a fine writer is experiencing career threatening (possibly ending) actions. Disappointed that he has such a narrow view of some firearms use and ownership.

"Maybe he needs to accompany someone in the field with one of these deadly, dangerous, terrorist weapons shooting tin cans, sage rats, etc. He might discover a whole new experience, probably similar to what he may have experienced as a child with a .22, only at longer range.

"I sincerely hope that he recovers from this difficulty, as he is one of the premier outdoor writers in America."

Some readers feel so strongly about what Zumbo said they're angry at me for not saying it. "I am a gun owner and have been for 75 years," said Carl Kostol of Baker City. "Jim Zumbo was right and the NRA is dead wrong. You should have produced a column supportive of Zumbo. It appears that you must be cowering behind your desk afraid to even hint that you feel the same as Zumbo about assault rifles."

And from Paul Katen of Otis: "On occasion, however far and few between they are, you actually stand up for the basic principles of true sportsmanship in hunting. Unfortunately, you missed your chance in your article on Sunday discussing Jim Zumbo's defense of the true art of hunting.

"With these weapons of mass destruction in the hands of someone whose role model shoots animals in fenced pens on the Outdoor Channel, we have a real recipe for more deterioration of hunting and sportsmanship skills.

"Come on Bill, be the sportsman I think you can be, defend the art of hunting, and tell us just what you think of hunters using AR-15s."

And so I will. But first, like Zumbo, I want to see for myself.

More and more lines are being drawn every day to corral hunters into clearer definitions of fair chase and perhaps these weapons will be another. More important to all of us, though, as an American with firearms and user of the First Amendment to defend the Second, I want a better look at a deep, troubling division in this land capable of launching such fully automatic, random Internet terrorism.

Bill Monroe: 503-221-8231

Friday, March 23, 2007

Outdoors icon didn't have chance against gun world
Rich Landers
The Spokesman-Review
March 8, 2007

None of my outdoor experiences has left a more vivid memory than watching four coyotes, who were unaware of my close proximity, as they attacked a frantic fawn mule deer.

Within seconds after fleeing into the open, the young deer was hamstrung, eviscerated and brought down before my eyes. One coyote raised its bloody muzzle to the sunset and yodeled in triumph as the others began ripping into the still-twitching carcass.

Unnerving as it was, that attack was no more ruthless and messy than the recent National Rifle Association-led feeding frenzy on Jim Zumbo.

The mustachioed Outdoor Life hunting editor and shooting-industry-sponsored TV personality sinned on Feb. 16 by stating firmly in a blog that increasing use of so-called assault-style rifles is detrimental to the image of sport hunting.

Even though many hunters, including myself, own semi-automatic firearms, Zumbo pointed out that the assault-style weapons conjure up images of "terrorists" among the general public.

The average hunter wouldn't raise an eyebrow at this statement because it's logical.

But the gun world went ballistic.

Zumbo probably went too far in suggesting that wildlife agencies ought to ban assault-style rifles from use in hunting. It would be difficult if not impossible for rules to distinguish between the "looks" of the AR-15 or AK-47 and the identical one-shot-per-trigger-pull function of my 50-year-old J.C. Higgins .22 semi-auto plinking rifle.

However, limiting the number of rounds a rifle hunter can fire before he must stop and think for a moment merits discussion. Waterfowl hunters have been limited to three-shot magazines in their pumps and autoloaders for as long as I can remember.

But the Zumbo debate didn't get that far.

Inflicting criticism toward any legal firearm is a damnable offense in the gun world.

With the speed of the Internet, Zumbo's 40-some-year career was shredded and discarded with a scary ring of intolerance.

Despite Zumbo's groveling apology and pledge to explore hunting with an AR-15 as soon as possible, the NRA disowned its long association with Zumbo and banned his work in its publications.

Outdoor Life let him go after an iconic presence on its pages dating back to 1962. Remington, Mossy Oak and other outdoor-industry advertisers severed ties and his internationally broadcast TV show is off the air.

Now the feeding frenzy continues, as gun zealots emerge to pile on with name-calling, insinuations and outright lies.

Zumbo jumped in bed with the gun industry and he's paying the price for dreaming that he could have his opinion and think in the best interests of hunters.

Clearly the gun world has its own rules in defending the Second Amendment, and the rules have little regard for protecting the spirit of the First Amendment.

Ethical journalists must remain an arms-length from this mind-controlling, information-squelching culture.

Most hunters are at least skeptical, too.

Ethical sportsmen are willing to stand up for their gun rights. But they want the freedom to distance themselves from the gun world's unsavory elements, many of which are raising their bloody mugs in cyberspace during the Zumbo assault.

That's why there are about 70 million gun owners and 20-some million hunters, but only 3-4 million of them belong to the NRA.

Clark Fork pike bite: A few fly fishers have been startled recently to learn something fish biologists have known for years: Northern pike are hanging out in eddies and frog water throughout much of the Clark Fork River.

A fly-fishing guide, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of a shunning by trout purists, said he'd never thought of targeting pike until recently, when he saw a bait fisherman soaking smelt in a big eddy near Superior, Mont.

The fly fisher fetched a 4-inch trout streamer pattern from his fly box, tied it onto his 9-foot, 12-pound leader and gave it a try.

On the second cast with a floating line and a 5-weight trout rod, a pike approaching 20 pounds slammed the leech.

"It was a pretty epic battle," the angler said. "The biggest fish I've ever caught on a fly."

The exhilaration over landing the toothy monster transformed to shock as the angler and his partner eventually hooked 15 northerns (while the bait fisherman caught two).

"I couldn't believe there were so many," he said, noting that he bonked every one of the pike.

"It seems like this is a new thing, but then I ask myself how often I've cast a Bunny Leech into a back eddy this time of year."

Ladd Knotek, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist in Missoula, said he's not surprised at this and similar stories he's been hearing from fly fishers recently.

"Pike have been in the Clark Fork system for quite a while, but in low numbers," he said. "Only recently have more people started to notice."

That's probably because the pike population is expanding.

"In about 2000, pike really took off in Milltown (Reservoir)," Knotek said. "We've been reducing their numbers for the past three years pretty effectively to prepare for the removal of the dam, but every drawdown flushes some pike downstream.

"Pike numbers are high below the dam and we've found pike intermittently all the way to the Flathead."

The good news for trout anglers is that the Clark Fork in the St. Regis region is a single channel that doesn't have much pike habitat.

"But anywhere you find big eddies or backwaters, you'll find pike," Knotek said.

Electrofishing surveys routinely find 10- to 12-pound pike, but generally in areas where they probably aren't a limiting factor to trout, he said.

The fly fisher I interviewed generally confirmed this in several subsequent outings to target Clark Fork pike.

"I've caught pike every time," he said, noting that he's gone to a 7-weight rod and 20-pound leader, but has yet to land a 15-pike limit. "They've been from 4 to 20 pounds. I open them all up and they don't have trout in their stomachs, just whitefish up to 15 inches long."


Honest opinions cost 2 gun experts
Thursday, March 08, 2007

Two gun guys— Jim Zumbo and Leon Measures— got their pink slips in the past week.

Zumbo publicly was gutted and quartered after he questioned in a web log if anyone should even own an AR-15 or other military style rifle, much less hunt with one. He lost his job at Outdoor Life magazine, lost an association with Remington and has been disowned by the National Rifle Association.


Both Zumbo and Measures are hunters and shooters and, in an odd way, their situations are related because they have paid a price for saying something they believe. In Zumbo's case, it's the First Amendment to the Constitution banging smack up against the Second Amendment and its rabid supporters.

For those who haven't heard, Zumbo (who did not respond to a request for an interview) has been the hunting editor at Outdoor Life for years. He worked his way up through the ranks to get there and has enjoyed the fruits of the position— hunting for big game all over the world— in a very public way. He was on a coyote hunt when he wrote in a late-night blog that he just didn't think AR-15s were an appropriate gun to use.

The fallout was immediate, even though Zumbo, who lives near Cody, Wyo., tried to apologize and explain away his blog as a wrong-headed piece of writing. "Someone once said that to err is human. I just erred, and made without question, the biggest blunder in my 42 years of writing hunting articles. My blog inflamed legions of people I love most . . . hunters and shooters," Zumbo wrote. "Obviously, when I wrote that blog, I activated my mouth before engaging my brain."

Zumbo's blog was passed around chat rooms, gun owners began pounding on advertisers and editors, and before long Zumbo was on the street. The First Amendment guarantees our right of free speech. It does not guarantee that it come with no consequences. We live in a world that doesn't tolerate much public dissent, even if the dissenter is one of our own.

Part of the problem is perception, especially among anti-gun factions, about what the AR-15 is and does. Lots of folks buy them, said gun store owner Joe McBride, especially before a national election or when there's any kind of anti-gun undercurrent in Congress.

"People react to politics," McBride said. "There's the whole perception (among anti-gun lawmakers and organizations) that nobody needs to own this type of gun. But other than the look of the gun, there's no difference between an AR-15 and the Browning or Remington semi-automatic hunting rifles."

The guns are autoloaders, not automatic rifles. They are made to military specifications in .223 caliber by Colt, Sig, Smith and Wesson and others.

Many ranchers who carry AR-15s or the Ruger Mini-14 rifles in their trucks, to get rid of hogs or coyotes when they get a chance. People obviously are hunting with them, and they pounced on Zumbo, who might have been a better tool had he been allowed to apologize, keep his job and become an advocate for AR-15 hunters.

Measures, on the other hand, didn't put anything into writing. He called last week to say he wasn't coming back to the Expo. The fallout, he said, apparently arose because he had made an anti-Budweiser remark to Parks and Wildlife's executive director, Bob Cook. "I said I thought we were supposed to be teaching kids and I didn't think we should have all the signs around Expo about Budweiser, and (Cook) didn't like it. I just thought you'd like to know," Measures said.

Now, I disagree with Measures about Budweiser or Anheuser-Busch and their involvement with Parks and Wildlife. They spend the money and they get some signage and other things that go along with millions invested in conservation. It's been called tainted money, but as former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby said in one of his few moments on the Parks and Wildlife commission: "T'ain't enough of it."

Any company, church or youth group that wants to buy sponsorships can step up to spend the money. I'll teach my kids and grandkids how to deal with beer advertising, but that money keeps some programs going at Parks and Wildlife and that's what's most important.

That said, Measures or anyone else shouldn't get the boot just for disagreeing. And he didn't, according to Gammage. "(A remark about Budweiser) was never an issue," he said. "Leon's been here since the beginning, but every year we never seemed to be able to meet his expectations. Over the years, he's had lots of run-ins with lots of people, usually over our inability to provide him with volunteers for his site."

Measures' air gun shooting site was annually among the top two shooting sport sites, along with the 4-H air gun site, but Gammage pointed out— and Measures confirmed— that Measures already had decided not to come to Expo again, so the split was mostly ceremonial. "I thought he actually was really good for Expo," Gammage said.

Posted on Wed, Mar. 07, 2007
Shoot first; never question

Associated Press

Some of the guns retrieved from a 2005 gun-trafficking case involving Mark Nelson, a former police officer, are displayed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office in Columbus, Ohio.

It's official: add gun control to the ranks of issues where no middle ground is permitted. The room for reasonable debate has been pushed out by gun rights advocates. You're either with them or against them.

Jim Zumbo is now counted against them. An accomplished big-game hunter, a 40-year member of the National Rifle Association and a writer for Outdoor Life magazine for almost 30 years, Zumbo touched off a firestorm when he dared to suggest on his online blog that hunters should reject "terrorist" rifles semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15.

"Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity," he wrote three weeks ago. "To most of the public, an assault rifle is a terrifying thing. Let's divorce ourselves from them. I say game departments should ban them from the prairies and woods."

For those words of reason, Zumbo was forced from the pages of Outdoor Life. Thousands of angry readers e-mailed the magazine calling for his dismissal. His cable TV show was canceled, and Remington Arms Co. ended his sponsorship agreements.

An apology and Zumbo's insistence that he wasn't aware the weapons were popular with some hunters have yet to salvage his career. It says much about the gun rights lobby that a lifelong hunter and Second Amendment supporter can be ruined for suggesting that assault rifles have no place in hunting, and that hunters who might agree with his original assertion didn't jump to defend him.

The unrelenting and intimidating pressure exerted by gun-rights champions also explains why even reasonable checks on gun sales are beyond discussion. Politicians have been scared into submission. Rep. David Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, learned that when he introduced a measure that would require gun show dealers to undergo background checks and would limit buyers to one firearm purchase a month. In the Democratic-controlled House, his bill couldn't get a hearing.

"We're at a point where we don't have substantial support for gun regulations on either side of the aisle," he told the Indianapolis Star.

"So that makes it difficult to raise an issue when an overwhelming number of Republicans and a substantial number of Democrats prefer not to have the issue discussed." It's unfortunate that common ground seems to have no place in a discussion of gun ownership.

But until the gun lobby stops suggesting that anyone who supports reasonable restrictions is actually determined to outlaw all firearms, there's little hope for safer, saner gun laws.

The Zumbo Affair, Afterthoughts

By Bill Schneider, 3-08-07

Last week, I wrote about how gun fanatics ruined a good man, one of their own, in days because he, in their opinion, misspoke. Jim Zumbo, a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and perhaps the most well known hunting writer in America, lost all or most of his major contracts after those who disagreed with him flooded his sponsors with thousands of emails.

I had emails, too. Not thousands, but hundreds, and I believe more online comments than any article ever posted on And after reading all these comments and emails, I have a few afterthoughts on the Zumbo affair.

Most important, my column wasn't even about guns or gun control. Nor was it about whether assault rifles should be banned or whether they are or should be used for hunting. It was about how scary it is that a rabid minority can so successfully attack somebody personally, destroy his career, and then boast about it and warn other writers not to cross them unless they want some of the same.

That still scares me. Even more now, after receiving some of the emails talking about drive-by bayonet attacks and reminding me about guys with concealed weapons permits--and a few others that probably could be turned over to the sheriff for investigation.

Concerning our right to bear arms, guys, both Jim Zumbo and Wild Bill agree with you. But let's stick to attacking the issue of gun control, not attacking people. And get a grip. You've won. The Democrats have taken gun control off the table. They don't want to get mired in an unwinable war over gun control and lose Congress back to the republicans. A maverick dem might throw in a bill, but it's going nowhere.

I'm sure I'll get a few more you're-being-naive emails insisting that there's a plot by the Brady Bunch to take my old 870 away, but I don't believe this is close to reality. I'm sure there are people, another fanatic minority, who believe all guns should be banned, but I personally am not worried about it because they have no chance of success.

The Gun Guys have tasted success, though. Regrettably, the personal attack dog mentality works--sort of like negative campaign ads. Nobody likes them, but they work. That was the point of last week's column. Personal attacks keep people from speaking their mind, and as we all agree, everybody is entitled to their opinion.

I also had several emails and comments saying, in essence, "It wasn't the NRA that destroyed Zumbo; it was a grassroots effort." Okay, I agree the National Rife Association wasn't visibly on the front line, and I suppose there is a difference between the NRA and NRA members, but where did this attack dog strategy originate? The NRA invented it to torture politicians, public officials and media folks who leaned toward gun control and get them defeated or fired. Zumbo might not have been ruined by the NRA, directly, but by NRA monitored and trained attack dogs who now claim to be "the grassroots of America."

Well, Gun Guys, as my column and your comments illustrate, I have to say, hats are off to you. As long as most people hunker down to avoid confronting you, and most will, you have a system that works for you. Intimidation works.

As far as comments that my writing helps contribute to the splitting of the hunting constituency and subsequently weakening support for the Second Amendment, I say the reverse is true. Gun owners, hunters and non-hunters, need to stick together, but when zealots brutalize one of their best friends, it hardly improves the spirit of cooperation.

The vast majority of hunters wouldn't be caught dead out in the field with anything that looks like an assault rifle. But by attacking such hunters, gun zealots split the hunting constituency and create an atmosphere where hunters might not step forward to help defeat gun control legislation. Eating your young doesn't further your cause.

As far as the endless argument over ballistics, what defines an assault rifle, and whether traditional hunting rifles are military knock-offs, again, this is off-message. As I'm sure my critics agree, I'm no gun expert. And I'm sure some traditional hunting rifles are ballistically similar to military weapons, but I have to ask, why then did gun manufacturers make guns that did not look like military weapons in the first place? That seems easy. Most hunters don't want to be seen hunting with the same weapons SWAT teams or Marine snipers use. They're our enjoying a quality hunt, not fighting wars or drug cartels. It's not about ballistics; it's about image. And as comments on last week's column prove once again, gun fanatics deserve their bad image.

One common point made in the comments was that the blogsphere we now live in made Zumbo's demise possible, and I agree wholeheartedly. The Internet gave us power, but let's not abuse it. Just because we can create a blogstorm to destroy somebody who has a different opinion, we don't have to do it. I agree with the New York Times editorial on the Zumbo affair. It's overkill.

What about Zumbo's sponsors? I heard from them, too, and I encouraged them to consider their message delivered and give the guy a second chance. I also received copies of many emails sent in support of Zumbo, so if I were one of those CEOs (and I've been there in a past life), I would say that out of this crisis comes a marketing opportunity. They've made the gun fanatics happy. Now, they can make the rest of us happy by forgiving Zumbo and winning kudos from both sides of the debate.

Finally, since this came up in a few emails, I should say I hardly know Zumbo. I met him once about twenty years ago, but I doubt he even remembers. So, it's not personal.

In summary, my message for the Gun Guys is stop attacking people and work together with hunters to build stronger support for the Second Amendment.

Posted Online: 3-14-2007
Gun lovers banish one of their own for being sensible

The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne

It's official: Add gun control to the ranks of issues where no middle ground is permitted. The room for reasonable debate has been pushed out by gun-rights advocates. You're either with them or against them.

Jim Zumbo is now counted against them. An accomplished big-game hunter, a 40-year member of the National Rifle Association and a writer for Outdoor Life magazine for almost 30 years, Zumbo touched off a firestorm when he dared to suggest on his online blog that hunters should reject "terrorist" rifles— semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15.

Zumbo was forced from the pages of Outdoor Life. Thousands of angry readers e-mailed the magazine calling for his dismissal. His cable TV show was canceled, and Remington Arms Co. ended his sponsorship agreements.

It says much about the gun-rights lobby that a lifelong hunter and Second Amendment supporter can be ruined for suggesting that assault rifles have no place in hunting, and that hunters who might agree with his original assertion didn't jump to defend him.

Until the gun lobby stops suggesting that anyone who supports reasonable restrictions is actually determined to outlaw all firearms, there's little hope for safer, saner gun laws. 910.html

March 19, 2007

For almost 40 years, Jim Zumbo was one of America's best-known hunters and gun enthusiasts, a cult figure among the millions of Americans who have what amounts to an almost mystical relationship with guns.

Zumbo had his own cable television program, wrote a regular column for the hunting magazine Outdoor Life and was the recipient of sponsorships from the powerful National Rifle Association and clothes makers specialising in hunting gear, as well as the Remington Arms Co.

Zumbo was feted and he was rich, a frequent guest speaker at right-wing functions where the biggest cheers were for those who supported so-called Second Amendment rights which conservatives and gun supporters say guarantee Americans the right to own and carry guns, including assault weapons.

Then, four weeks ago, Zumbo became Dumbo. In his "Hunting with Zumbo" column in Outdoor Life, he said that he was in Wyoming hunting coyotes and had got to thinking about a growing trend among prairie dog hunters to use automatic assault rifles, which he called "terrorist rifles".

"As hunters, we don't need the image of walking around the woods carrying one of these weapons," he said. "To most of the public, an assault rifle is a terrifying thing. Let's divorce ourselves from them."

Within hours, thousands of emails had been sent to Zumbo and the magazine protesting against this outrageous attack on the liberty of gun owners. Within two days, every major sponsor had severed relations with Zumbo, including Remington Arms and the NRA.

After more than 60 years with Outdoor Life, Zumbo was sacked. His cable television program on the Outdoor Channel was dropped. And despite abject, self-excoriating apologies, Zumbo's career is as dead as a prairie dog mangled by an assault rifle.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like half the 5000 people attending were wearing NRA badges. The big news for the NRA was that Mitt Romney, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination and once considered to be in favour of gun control, was now a proud NRA member, quietly joining the organisation about a week before he announced his run for the presidency.

Then, on March 9, the NRA scored a major victory in the Federal Court in Washington. The US Court of Appeal ruled that the capital's guns law - the toughest in the country - which bans keeping guns in homes was unconstitutional. In a 2-1 judgement, the court ruled that the Second Amendment literally meant that Americans had the right to own and carry guns and that governments could not stop them from doing so.

The key sentence of the Second Amendment reads: "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."

The meaning of this sentence has been debated furiously by constitutional lawyers for at least half a century, even as the evidence mounted that the US had the highest level of gun ownership in the developed world and that gun deaths in America were at epidemic levels.

Gun control advocates argue that the sentence relates only to the right of the states and the federal government to establish armies. The NRA and most conservatives argue that it means every American has gun rights.

The Washington decision was the first time a federal court had ruled emphatically in favour of the gun lobby's interpretation and, if the ruling is upheld after the inevitable appeal, it could mean the end of meaningful attempts to restrict gun ownership.

This would surely be a disaster: there are about 192 million guns in circulation in America, more than a third of Americans own a gun and about 30,000 die each year from gunshot wounds, with another 52,000 injured.

None of the Democratic Party candidates for president - not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama and not John Edwards - is hot on gun control. Indeed, all three will try hard to simply ignore it.

As for the Republicans, well, Romney is now a gun nut, and John McCain applauded the court decision. Of the declared candidates, only Rudolph Giuliani is on record as supporting gun control, having introduced restrictions on gun ownership in New York when he was mayor.

Given the NRA's record of going after politicians who want to restrict gun ownership, chances are that Giuliani, even if he doesn't join the association, will not be campaigning, as he did in New York, for gun control.

Sadly, the American love affair with guns is not about to end any time soon.

Michael Gawenda is the Herald's Washington correspondent.

Zumbo fields criticism for disparaging remarks

By Bryce Lambley/Guest Columnist

When Outdoor Life icon Jim Zumbo recently made disparaging remarks toward semi-automatic rifles such as the AK-47, he touched off a powder keg of reaction that cost him many of his major sponsors and much of the high regard with which he was held in the sporting community.

For those unaware of the controversy, Zumbo stated, "(Hunters) don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with (assault rifles), which is an obvious concern."

Zumbo felt such weapons— generally labeled as "assault" weapons (due more to cosmetic styling than any real functional difference)— in the hands of hunters gave the non-hunting public a sour taste for our sport. He also disparaged these guns' accuracy.

Apparently he underestimated how many hunters actually like these "black rifles" and how accurate some of them are, as the firestorm that followed was swift and sudden. He was called a traitor by many Second Amendment supporters who felt his words gave ammunition to those who would disarm free Americans, one weapon type at a time.

There certainly is a slippery slope that gun control zealots world-wide would welcome if even one style of currently-legal firearm were suddenly classified as illegal. When banning one semi-automatic gun doesn't reduce crime (it won't), the witch-hunt will shift to another make or model.

Some charged Zumbo's claim that such rifles are inferior for hunting gave gun-haters momentum at a time when their progress was rather stagnant. Apparently some of the guns he questioned also boast good accuracy too.

I will say, though, that I believe Zumbo may be right when he stated the appearance of certain firearms probably does diminish our view in the eyes of many others. While many non-hunters probably accept the visual images of the standard wood-stocked, blued metal barreled used over the last century, I'm not sure the lines of AK-47s and their ilk meet with the same acceptance. Even shotguns are taking on a look that takes some of us veterans time to get used to.

The latest sales flyers for the upcoming turkey season show a myriad of shotgun offerings, almost none of which look much like the popular guns of just 30 years ago.

They had strange stock configurations, many made of polymer instead of wood. Almost every one of them was painted camouflage. Does that make them evil by comparison to the guns I grew up with? Of course not.

Old-timers may remember the indignation met by the release of the Remington Nylon 66 .22 rifle in 1959. That model employed a space-age stock material and was eventually accepted, selling over a million in a 30-year production span.

Young men today tell me they like the new guns because they're almost indestructible and they think nothing of muddying them up or using them to bust through brush when seeking pheasants. And camouflage is certainly in vogue.

Should we even be concerned about appearances? I admit that if I had my way, all guns would look much like those of yesteryear. Tradition is hard for me to let go of, and I miss the simpler, "earthy" look of hunters and fishermen in times past.

But times have changed, and maybe the old guard, Zumbo included, should accept these space-age guns and even the paramilitary look of the AK-47s. But I feel the now-beleaguered writer does raise an issue that hunters need to be concerned with, and that is our appearance to the general public.

Jim Zumbo Letter to the U.S. Senate Oppsing a Ban on "Assualt Weapons"

March 28, 2007

An Open Letter to the United States Senate

Dear Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen:

It recently came to my attention that one of your colleagues, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, has chosen to attack firearms owners using remarks I wrote in mid-February as his launch pad. As you probably know, Sen. Levin has been making anti-gun speeches every week for the past eight years because of a promise he made to the Economic Club of Detroit in May 1999.

Mr. Levin has an agenda, and he should have spoken to me before using my name in one of his speeches, especially since his remarks were entered into the Congressional Record. I would like my remarks here entered into the Congressional Record as well.

Sen. Levin is only one of 16 members of the Senate to vote against the Vitter Amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. This amendment prohibits the confiscation of a privately-owned firearm during an emergency or major disaster when possession of that gun is not prohibited under state or federal law.

Eighty-four senators voted for that amendment, inspired by the egregious confiscation of firearms from the citizens of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005. Those seizures, you will recall, led the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association to join in a landmark civil rights lawsuit in federal court that brought the confiscations to an abrupt end.

The taking of private property without warrant or probable cause even firearms was considered an outrage by millions of American citizens, and yet Sen. Levin joined 15 of his colleagues in voting against this measure. It is no small wonder that Sen. Levin gets an "F" rating from gun rights organizations. He would have American citizens disarmed and left defenseless at a time when they need their firearms the most, when social order collapses into anarchy and protecting one's self and one's family is not simply a right and responsibility, it becomes a necessity.

That in mind, Sen. Levin must know that almost immediately after I wrote those remarks, I recanted and apologized to the millions of Americans who lawfully and responsibly own, compete with and hunt with semi-automatic rifles. I took a "crash course" on these firearms and visited with my good friend Ted Nugent on his ranch in Texas, where I personally shot an AR-15 and educated myself with these firearms.

Some of us learn from our mistakes, others keep making them. Legislation to which Sen. Levin alluded, HR 1022, would renew the ban on so-called "assault weapons," and dangerously expand it to encompass far more perfectly legal firearms. For the Congress of the United States to even consider such legislation is an affront to every law-abiding firearms owner in this country.

This legislation that Sen. Levin appears to endorse is written so broadly as outlaw not only firearms, but accessories, including a folding stock for a Ruger rifle. As I understand the language of this bill, it could ultimately take away my timeworn and cherished hunting rifles and shotguns firearms I hope to one day pass on to my grandchildren as well as millions of identical and similar firearms owned by other American citizens.

It is clear to me that the supporters of this legislation don't want to stop criminals. They want to invent new ones out of people like me, and many of you, and your constituents, friends, neighbors and members of your families. They will do anything they can, go to any extremes they believe necessary, to make it impossible for more and more American citizens to legally own any firearm.

In his final paragraph, Senator Levin misrepresents what I said. I never spoke in favor of a general assault weapons ban. Again, I immediately apologized for my blog statement that was exclusively directed toward hunting and not gun ownership.

I will not allow my name to be associated with this kind of attack on the Second Amendment rights of my fellow citizens.

A few weeks ago, in a letter to Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, I promised to educate my fellow hunters about this insidious legislation "even if I have to visit every hunting camp and climb into every duck blind and deer stand in this country to get it done."

I will amend that to add that I will bring my effort to Capitol Hill if necessary, even if I have to knock on every door and camp in every office of the United States Senate. In promoting this ban, the Hon. Carl Levin does not speak for me, or anybody I know.


James Zumbo
Cody, Wyoming
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Posted: 3/30/2007 9:21:01 AM
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