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"Stay 'unreasonable.'  If you don't like the solutions [available to you], come up with your own." 
Dan Webre

The Martialist does not constitute legal advice.  It is for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

Copyright © Phil Elmore,
all rights reserved.

Calling All Fudds: The Zumboing of Zumbo and the RKBA

By Phil Elmore


Anyone at all aware of the discussions among the online gun culture on the Internet had little choice in mid-February, 2007, but to be aware, however dimly, of the controversy surrounding Jim Zumbo. The amusingly named Zumbo, a "sportsman" and hunting writer of some years' experience, wrote a column in his "blog" at Outdoor Life Magazine's website in which he characterized those rifles inaccurately termed semi-automatic "assault rifles" (so named for their magazine capacities and cosmetic similarities to select-fire military rifles) as the tools of terrorists, "terrifying" weapons for which he sees no use and which he would like to shun, Amish-style, not to mention ban by force of law. In making these comments, Zumbo draws a line between wholesome hunters like himself, and owners of guns that, quite frankly, scare him. How any hunter conversant in firearms can be 'terrified' of weapons whose cartridges are far less powerful than the hunting rifles -- excuse me, "sporting firearms" Zumbo himself carries in the woods when he's shooting animals defies reason, but then, I'll let him tell you in his own words:
I call them "assault" rifles, which may upset some people. Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. I'll go so far as to call them "terrorist" rifles. They tell me that some companies are producing assault rifles that are "tackdrivers."

Sorry, folks, 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. I've always been comfortable with the statement that hunters don't use assault rifles. We've always been proud of our "sporting firearms."

This really has me concerned. 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 say game departments should ban them from the praries and woods.
The gun culture online turned apoplectic when word spread of Zumbo's ill-considered editorial. Angry calls and e-mails began flooding in to Zumbo's various sponsors, including Remington, Gerber Legendary Blades, Cabelas, and the host of the blog itself, Outdoor Life Magazine. Most demanded that Zumbo immediately be dropped by sponsors, threatening a boycott -- which, among gun owners, is no small thing. Second Amendment zealots (of which I am proudly one) have long memories and they hold grudges. The firearms community nationwide, while large, is relatively small. A gun company, or any commercial endeavor related even indirectly to firearms, cannot survive if it gets a reputation for less than solid support of the Second Amendment. A few of the larger companies have weathered storms created by ill-considered business decisions or public comments on the Second Amendment, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule. The fact is that the threat of a boycott from supporters of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (RKBA) is no empty threat.

Fearing the ramifications of this, and perhaps pressured by Outdoor Life (if not simply afraid of the impact such widespread outrage would have on his commercial sponsors), Zumbo went back to his keyboard. With a sincerity matched only by former President Bill Clinton's lower-lip-chewing, finger-wagging denials "of sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky," he typed the following "apology," in which he even invoked one of Bill Clinton's more famous excuses for ramming his own foot down his digestive tract -- that of being "tired." I'm not sure how a lack of sleep turns you into an ignorantly pontificating traitor to the United States Constitution, exactly, but the description is certainly applicable in both cases:
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...

...Let me explain the circumstances surrounding that blog. I was hunting coyotes, and after the hunt was over and being beat up by 60 mph winds all day, I was discussing hunting with one of the young guides. I was tired and exhausted, and I should have gone to bed early. When the guide told me that there was a "huge" following of hunters who use AR 15's and similar weapons to hunt prairies dogs, I was amazed. At that point I wrote the blog, and never thought it through.

Now then, you might not believe what I have to say, but I hope you do. How is it that Zumbo, who has been hunting for more than 50 years, is totally ignorant about these types of guns. I don't know. I shot one once at a target last year, and thought it was cool, but I never considered using one for hunting. I had absolutely no idea how vast the numbers of folks are who use them.

I never intended to be divisive...

...What really bothers me are some of the unpatriotic comments leveled at me. I fly the flag 365 days a year in my front yard. Last year, through an essay contest, I hosted a soldier wounded in Iraq to a free hunt in Botswana. This year, through another essay contest, I'm taking two more soldiers on a free moose and elk hunt.

...Believe it or not, I'm your best friend if you're a hunter or shooter, though it might not seem that way. I simply screwed up...
So you see, Zumbo's your best friend if you support the Second Amendment. He was tired. It wasn't his fault. He took a a few of those people he called "terrorists" -- oh, excuse me, American soldiers -- on free hunts, so he must support the Second Amendment. Why, the man has a flag that he flies all year 'round; how could you dare question his patriotism?

At what point do ridiculous, backpedaling excuses like these start to sound like an anti-Semite squealing that he's not anti-Semitic, because he's got Jewish friends, or a Klan member protesting that he's not racist, because he goes out drinking with his black coworkers? Now, Zumbo is not a racist (I could no more assert that than I could claim he was a Martian, a Republican, or a dentist -- I don't know anything about the man's personal life or credentials other than what he wrote in his blog). What I can say with certainty and conviction, based on the same two blog post excerpted here, is that Zumbo is a hunting snob who sneers at other gun owners whose guns don't match his definition of a "sporting firearm."

Zumbo is, in short, a Fudd.

A Fudd is an ignorant hunter who sees no connection between his "sporting firearms" -- his hunting tools -- and his firearms rights. He is not a Second Amendment supporter; he may even be a Democrat. He loves to hunt, for whatever reason, but he has no respect and no use for "non-traditional" shooters. He can't imagine a rifle stock made of plastic being good for anything; he can't see a need or a "legitimate sporting purpose" for any weapon cosmetically similar to a military arm. He is, in short, an elitist who doesn't wish to associate with those gun owners he considers beneath him.

As the outrage over Zumbo's column spread, consequences started to be felt. The overwhelming grassroots pressure prompted posters in at least one Internet forum to declare "Zumbo" a verb, a good working definition of which might be "to inundate with grassroots support or opposition, as in the advocacy of a political issue." For my own part, I e-mailed all the sponsors I could think of, including Zumbo himself. I e-mailed Outdoor Life demanding he be let go. I even sent a snailmail letter with my business card to Jim Zumbo's Post Office box, because if I'm going to demand a man be fired, I'm damned well not going to do it anonymously.

The firestorm took its toll. Sponsor Remington severed all ties with the man in no uncertain terms. Cabelas, another sponsor, issued a statement saying that it was analyzing its contractual obligations -- the implication being, I think, that it was trying to determine if it could legally drop support for Zumbo. Yet another sponsor, Hi Mountain Jerky, sent e-mail saying explicitly that it did not support Mr. Zumbo's statements and that it "would not have supported [his hunting show on the Outdoor Channel] or had his endorsement on our packaging in the past had we known [his opinion]."

Outdoor Life Magazine finally deleted the Zumbo columns completely, dropping them down the Memory Hole while bleating in protest that it really wasn't anti-gun, not really. "Due to the controversy surrounding Jim Zumbo’s recent postings," the official announcement read, "Outdoor Life has decided to discontinue the 'Hunting With Zumbo' blog for the time being. 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."

Outdoor Life's protestations notwithstanding, various friends of Zumbo were quick to leap to his defense, activating the Good Ol' Boy network of Fudds and other less than solidly Second Amendment-supporting hunters (and those others who are nominally shooters, but hardly defenders of the Second Amendment) who were only too willing to act as apologists for one of their own. It didn't matter that Zumbo's strident and self-righteous editorial was made from ignorance by his own admission in his "apology." No, all that mattered was another flannel-clad man with a wood-stocked rifle was being taken to task for his ignorance by owners of, and sympathizers to, the "terrorist rifles" Zumbo had so bravely decried. It was therefore necessary to start bitching and whining about how terribly unfair it was that Zumbo be held accountable for his statements.

Jim Shepherd of the Outdoor Wire commented on the controversy, saying in part that the Zumboing of Zumbo was the "shouting down" of "voices calling for reason and tolerance." This characterization does not emphasize harshly enough the fact that it is Zumbo who is responsible for creating, through his inflammatory and ignorant rhetoric, what Shepherd characterized as a "schism" -- the "ill-considered" creation of "good-gun, bad-gun categories" even now being used in Congress as "further evidence of the 'need' to regulate firearms -- all firearms -- more stringently."

I wonder if readers will get the impression from Shepherd's column (The Blog Heard 'Round The Industry: Jim Zumbo angers firearm enthusiasts, posted 20 February, 2007) that the "schism" is created by the implied 'intolerance' of those "firearms enthusiasts" angrily calling for Zumbo's metaphorical head on a virtual platter. If only those of us eager to protect the Second Amendment would be more 'reasonable,' one might conclude, there would be no "schism" and the gun-grabbers wouldn't be using our own divisive politics against us. The problem with this tempting conclusion is that it relieves of responsibility for his actions the man who created the problem, who indeed sought to create "good-gun, bad-gun" categories -- Zumbo himself, whose mind-numbing ignorance in writing the editorial in the first place is matched only by the insincerity of his subsequent apology for it.

"Gun Talk" host Tom Gresham, in a column titled "Tipping Point -- Suicide on the Web," concluded that Jim Zumbo "basically committed career suicide." He went on to explain that Zumbo "made a mistake from which there was no recovery. He wrote his blog while on a hunting trip. Just before going on the air, I checked the internet forums (fora?) and found a firestorm. People were livid, and with good reason. Some of the comments were clearly over the top, but most of them conveyed the rage that comes from a feeling of being betrayed by someone you thought of as one of your own."

Gresham, it seems, now regrets initial comments he made in an interview with Zumbo about the online controversy, comments in which he decried firearms owners' "willingness to eat our own." He was wrong to say that, Gresham now says, because such cannibal mistreatment of Zumbo was "not what was going on here, as I discovered when I got off the air...The outrage by gun owners is completely understandable. To put it in context, Zumbo's comments came only days after we saw the introduction of a bill in Congress to bring back the Clinton Gun Ban (the so-called 'assault weapons' ban). The final nail in the coffin was when-- Sunday afternoon -- the Brady Campaign (the leading group working to restrict gun rights) posted Zumbo's comments to several places on the net, saying, in effect, 'See, even the top hunting writer says these rifles have no legitimate use.' At that point, it was all over for Jim Zumbo."

Gresham correctly points out that the real problem here is not Zumbo's statements in and of themselves, ignorant as they were. No, the problem is that Zumbo's comments were almost immediately picked up by various anti-gun groups as evidence of support for their noble cause within the firearms community. Such gun-banning groups are always trolling for pet "experts," those Second Amendment quislings supposedly knowledgable of firearms whom they can trot out for media soundbites condemning certain kinds of "bad" firearms. This is a common tactic in the incremental push among such groups for total gun bans. First they go after "junk guns" and "Saturday Night Specials." Then they attack "assault weapons." Then they decry the proliferation of "sniper rifles." It doesn't matter that in all cases, these vilifying terms are lies and distortions meant to justify banning perfectly legitimate firearms. All that matters is that the gun banners can claim a victory and further their agendas. If they can do so while pimping a "firearms expert" who's happy to oblige them with fuel for their propaganda machine, they'll do so. It confers on them the veneer of legitimacy while disguising their true intentions, cloaking as "reasonable gun control measures" their long-term goal of banning all firearms.

The problem is, you see, that gun owners are a persecuted minority. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects the inalienable and natural right of American citizens to keep and bear arms, has been under attack for years, incrementally chipped away, suppressed, infringed, and circumvented by activist judges and left-wing pressure groups almost since its inception. Some of the earliest infringements on the RKBA had to do with restrictions on bowie knives, Arkansas toothpicks, and other tools of dueling, a tradition seen as barbaric by more "civilized" governing Americans. Some time later, "Jim Crow" laws included restrictions on firearms ownership, such as requiring permits issued by local law enforcement, in an attempt to disarm black Americans. The 1930s and the 1960s saw restrictions on firearms that were politically motivated by attempts (ill-conceived and ineffective attempts, I might add) to prevent gun violence, born of national horror at crime and political assassinations.

This issue is so serious because it quite literally concerns life and death -- specifically, the lives and deaths of American citizens trying to protect their families and themselves from crime. Any attack on your firearms rights reduces or eliminates by force of law your right, your opportunity, and your ability to own and employ a firearm, the most useful tool for personal defense yet invented. Any statements that facilitate these attacks -- any lies, arguments, or quotes used by the firearms prohibitionists to attack your gun rights -- are therefore no less than an indirect attempt to decrease the value of your life. A man who presumes to tell you that you cannot own a firearm is not just pissing on the United States Constitution and the Second Amendment; he is presuming to tell you how much your life is worth. He is saying he sees no reason to make it easier for you to defend that life, or the lives of your family. He is declaring his supremacy over you by presuming to judge your life and its value. If there is a more tyrannical worldview, I don't know what it might be.

Whenever your firearms rights are attacked, therefore, you have no choice but to see that attack, ideologically, as an attempt to devalue your life. You are fully within your rights to speak out, loudly and persistently, in opposition to such presumption. You are also correct to be outraged that anyone would presume to tell you what your life is worth. There are varying degrees of outrage, however.

When irrational, fearful, ignorant people like the gun-banners at the Brady Campaign or the Violence Policy Institute or (whatever it's called) spit on your life and the lives of your family, empowering violent criminals by attempting to disarm you, it's not much of a surprise. Some people simply have this worldview and, motivated by a fear of guns and an ignorance of firearms technology, they lash out in all their impotent fury, a screaming mob made powerful by pandering lawmakers with no respect for the United States Constitution. Gun owners have pretty much come to expect this behavior. Those gun owners alive and active today have been coping with truly serious and deleterious infringements on their gun rights since the 1960s.

When an irrational furtherance of firearms prohibition is made from within the ranks of your fellow shooters, however, it is only just and it is perfectly understandable that one's outrage would be that much greater. That is what occurred. Jim Zumbo attacked the firearms rights of the very people with whom he hunts and socializes, the Fudds within their numbers notwithstanding. He betrayed the people he should have been working to support, the people whose rights are protected by the very Constitution one would hope Zumbo is lauding when he flies his precious flag 365 days a year. I would think such a patriotic American would understand why you can't then call for the banning of certain kinds of firearms without infuriating thousands of Second Amendment supporters and armed citizens, who see such statements as a betrayal of their rights and an attack on the values of their lives. But, no, Zumbo and his Fudd supporters don't grasp this. Instead they mewl and shriek that the First Amendment protects their right to further the destruction of the Second without consequence.

The First Amendment guarantees you the right to speak your mind without fear of legal repercussion. It is not, however, a shield behind which to hide in an attempt to avoid the unpopularity incurred when one voices unpopular opinions. It is not an all-purpose aegis from whose shelter you may demand license to offend anyone, anywhere, for any reason, unless you are willing to live with the consequences of having given offense. This is why having the courage of one's convictions requires courage. Stand up and say what is unpopular, by all means -- but don't then complain that you have become unpopular. In a free market, you are free to piss on your customers -- but don't complain when they take their business elsewhere.

Zumbo and the Fudds don't, won't, or can't understand that the Second Amendment is not about hunting, no matter how many times this is repeated vehemently by RKBA supporters. When Zumbo's hunting rifles are banned as "sniper rifles" (a tactic even now being employed by the gun banners to mischracterize any rifle with some glass mounted to it), perhaps he'll come to regret his comments -- but then again, he's already admitted to advocating the banning of firearms about which he is, in his own words and by his own admission, "totally ignorant." Ignorance is a tool of the firearms prohibitionists, the gun banners, the gun-grabbers, the antis. By any name, they are fighting to destroy the United States Constitution and the rights of all American citizens as protected by the Second Amendment. When the Fudds employ these tactics, they are every bit as guilty as the Brady Campaign and their ilk.

You Fudds have a choice. You can understand that by furthering the cause of the gun-grabbers, you are cutting your own throats. You can make the connection between your precious hunting trips and the firearms you take on them. Or you can continue to shoot your deer and your bears and whatever else, all the while working to make certain that, eventually, you'll no more be able to gun down an elk than you'll be able to shoot the rapist who is coming for your wife.

It's your choice. Make it now.