quidni pro quo

Random musings at random intervals. Erudition not guaranteed.

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Location: El Paso area, Texas, United States

I'm a 40-something Christian, conservative, pro-life, Constitutionalist, motorcycle-riding, pick-up truck driving, wife, mother, state employee, ham radio operator and part-time college student, enlisted in the Texas State Guard. Everything else is subject to revision without notice.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Definitely needs to be archived

(I'm tucking this here because I don't think the Shooting Wire archives past posts, and this definitely needs to be saved. Please do not copy without crediting Jim Shepherd.)
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Zumbo Fallout Continues

Three days after Jim Zumbo committed career suicide via Outdoor Life blog, the shock waves continue to reverberate through the shooting world.

Unless you've been comatose since Sunday afternoon, you've probably seen a small fraction of the furious responses to Zumbo's personal observation that "assault rifles" should be banned because they were "terrorist" weapons with "no place in hunting". Unless you've waded through more than 3,000 emails, fielded dozens of angry phone calls and talked with dozens of people in the industry who are absolutely flabbergasted at the outpouring of anger, you've only seen a part of what's happening.

AR-style rifle enthusiasts have forced the entire shooting industry to acknowledge a blinding glimpse of the obvious: there are many, many more "recreational shooters" out there than there are hard-core hunting types.

For many in our industry, this was a frightening epiphany. They've continued to market their products to the hunting community while blithely ignoring the growth segments of the industry.

They are decidedly not ignoring us anymore.

When the firestorm ignited on Sunday, Remington was the first to taste the fury.

Mr. Zumbo had casually name-dropped a pair of Remington execs in the first sentence of his now-famous writing. In response, Tommy Millner, CEO of Remington, tried explaining on the Outdoor Life blog that Remington tested their products with writers. That didn't slow the calls for complete boycotts of all Remington products.

If Remington was associating with Zumbo, Remington was an enemy.

Remington got the message, issuing this statement on Monday:

"As a result of comments made by Mr. Jim Zumbo in recent postings on his blog site, Remington Arms Company, Inc., has severed all sponsorship ties with Mr. Zumbo effective immediately. While Mr. Zumbo is entitled to his opinions and has the constitutional right to freely express those options, these comments are solely his, and do not reflect the views of Remington.

"Remington has spent tens of millions of dollars defending our Second Amendment rights to privately own and possess firearms and we will continue to vigorously fight to protect these rights," commented Tommy Millner, Remington's CEO and President. "As hunters and shooters of all interest levels, we should strive to utilize this unfortunate occurrence to unite as a whole in support of our Second Amendment rights."

By then, Outdoor Life had decided to discontinue the Hunting With Zumbo blog "for the time being, " saying "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."

And still the protests grew.

Yesterday, other companies expressed their disapproval by withdrawing sponsorship or affiliation agreements.

Mossy Oak Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Butch English issued a statement saying it was "unfortunate that a long-time hunter and outdoor writer took a personal position that was unsupportive of the Second Amendment which does not differentiate between firearm types. As a result of comments made by Mr. Zumbo in recent postings on his blog site, Haas Outdoors, Inc. the home of Mossy Oak Brand Camo has ended all sponsorship ties with Mr. Zumbo, effective immediately."

Last night, Zumbo's hunting program didn't appear in its regular time slot on The Outdoor Channel - or subsequent scheduled repeats. I was told that was because "requests were made for changes regarding the nature for participants. Those changes could not be made in time for its airing." I was also assured Zumbo's show would be "back next week in its same time slot."

Pardon me if I don't make a wager on that happening.

Zumbo has gone from bankable brand name to leper status in record time.

Remington, Mossy Oak and Cabela's have swallowed a bitter pill and divorced their companies from any Zumbo connection. After more than 40 years in the industry, Zumbo's contacts and connections drive deeply into the hunting world. Those connections are painful to break - especially under these conditions.

Especially since Zumbo's opinion really isn't all that uncommon in hardcore hunting circles. And those hunting circles have traditionally dictated how - and to whom - many companies market their products.

And for that wakeup call, we might find that we owe Jim Zumbo.

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.

When I made the decision to begin The Shooting Wire, some outdoor writers questioned why I would start a "shooting" wire instead of a "hunting" wire.

Today, they know why.

The in the firearms industry, is not in hunting rifles. It is in those "terrorist" black guns (in a growing variety of calibers, further reflecting the platform's many useful applications) and the military-style handguns that accompany them. Ditto ammo and accessories. There are many, many manufacturers in the "black rifle" space - and more of them are coming.

Mr. Zumbo notwithstanding, AR-style rifles are regularly winning precision shooting titles. AR-style rifles are accurate. With the right ammo, they can hit targets at prodigious distances or protecting your home in an emergency.

In fact, the carbine style rifle with special ammo is becoming a huge player in home defense.

So what can we take from this experience?

Plenty.

First, it would appear the internet is the primary means of distributing information today. A blog that normally generated fewer than 50 responses was shut down after thousands of responses. Personally, I have received thousands of emails asking simply "seen this" with the Outdoor Life blog address. Those emails have broadened to direct recipients to the myriad chat rooms, message boards and other blog sites responding to the controversy.

Another lesson is one we all should remember: clicking on "SEND" is pulling a trigger-it's no more possible to recall digital words than it is to put a bullet back into a barrel. Likewise, you should never write anything on the internet that you don't want to see posted on your worst enemy's website - or the front page of the New York Times.

Yesterday afternoon, I started speaking with contacts in the firearms manufacturing area, asking them if they'd ever seen anything like this controversy. They all agree it was one of the most amazing things we'd ever seen. The almost instantaneous mobilization of AR advocates was breathtaking - and sobering.

After all, we didn't turn out in those numbers when Congresswoman McCarthy re-introduced the Assault Weapons Ban last week. Responses like the ones we've seen over the past two days would have melted down the Congressional e-mail servers.

So what have we learned, I asked Doug Painter of the National Shooting Sports Foundation?

"The important perspective from our side of the street," Painter said, "is that whether you hunt or shoot in competition or for sport with a primitive muzzleloader or the latest high-tech rifle, what links us is more important that what divides us. We may shoot cowboy, skeet, practical or whatever, but our common belief has to be the Second Amendment - everything else is just a matter of style."

He also had a sobering reminder.

"The flip side," he said, "is to remember our opponents have all of us in their crosshairs."

And he's right. Long after the Jim Zumbo controversy is over (it will probably never be forgotten - or forgiven), we will still face the ongoing assaults on our Second Amendment rights.

Now that we've discovered our voice - we must continue to apply it to our opponents.

--Jim Shepherd

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