February 27th, 2007

New Tilley Hat

The NRA has lost it.

Headline: Assault rifle blog backfires (a moderate pun, but misses the point. Better headline: Right-wing political correctness in the crosshairs.)

SEATTLE - Modern hunters rarely become more famous than Jim Zumbo. A mustachioed, barrel-chested outdoors entrepreneur who lives in a log cabin near Yellowstone National Park, he has spent much of his life writing for prominent outdoors magazines, delivering lectures across the country and starring in cable TV shows about big-game hunting in the West. Zumbo's fame, however, has turned to black-bordered infamy within America's gun culture -- and his multimedia success has come undone. It all happened in the past week, after he publicly criticized the use of military-style assault rifles by hunters, especially those gunning for prairie dogs.

"Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity," Zumbo wrote in his blog on the Outdoor Life website. The Feb. 16 posting has since been taken down. "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."

I sent the following letter to the editor. Naturally, the conservative STrib lettercolumn didn't touch it. Indeed, while the STrib ran the story, I haven't seen much coverage or response anywhere else. Except, of course, for the right-wing slime machine, out in full force.

The NRA has lost it. They no longer represent responsible gun ownership.

They didn't lose it over Jim Zumbo, who was raked over the coals because he said the obvious: You don't need an assault rifle to hunt small animals. That merely proved that the NRA is a bastion of right-wing political correctness. They didn't lose it when Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face and didn't report in for more than a day. Their ardent support for a screw-up merely disproved one of their most-loved adages: Gun control is hitting your target.

No, the NRA lost it when President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act, killing off habeas corpus and allowing for the permanent detention and torture of US citizens. The Patriot Acts were bad enough: The slippery slope is that your gun could be taken from you and if the government claimed their actions were related to terrorism then you can't tell anyone without breaking the law. For decades, the mainstay of the gun lobby's rationale was that they NEEDED their guns to protect Constitutional rights. These rights are are now gone, and the gun lobby helped remove them.

As usual, conservatives invented a culture war, then find themselves on the wrong side of the battle. Jim Zumbo is only the latest casualty.