The Sport of Kings

Here’s the transcript of the portion of Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk radio show from Sunday where he interviews Jim Zumbo (available at iTunes)

Tom Gresham: Let’s bring in my good friend, long-time friend Jim Zumbo has joined us here. Just got back from a hunt and walked into a hornet’s nest. Hey Jim, howya doing?

Jim Zumbo: Boy, a hornet’s nest is an understatement, Tom. (Chuckles)

Gresham: Man alive, I’ve kind of explained before you got here what’s going on, and you wrote this piece – I guess it was just part of your blog, right?

Zumbo: Yeah, it was. In fact I just answered it if anyone wants to know exactly what I said, I just posted a new blog, and it’s a total apology, and kind of explains my position where basically activating my mouth before engaging my brain. (Chuckles)

Gresham: Aw, man. I tell ya. One of the things that’s interesting about this – let me back up. Essentially the post on the Outdoor Life blog, it says, you know, you were talking about AR15’s and I know a lot of people use AR15’s for varmint hunting and all, and you made a couple of comments about “well I just don’t think those are appropriate for hunting” and hey, look, I get it. I’m a guy who really likes nice looking guns.

Zumbo: Um-hm.

Gresham: But there are, and I have said this openly, there got some folks on our side of the fence who would be doing us a favor if they went to the other side, sometimes.

Zumbo: Um-hm.

Gresham: Because they react – now I don’t know if you have seen it, but there are actually people posting your home address.

Zumbo: That’s what I’ve heard.

Gresham: Yeah, it’s getting real ugly…

Zumbo: Yep.

Gresham: …out there, and I don’t know if this comes from a sense that they feeel as though they’ve been betrayed, and in fact on one of the blogs I’ve been saying “Well how about we just listen to the guy and find out…,” “NO, NO NO! Not going to do that.” I said well “What, do we have a ‘one strike and you’re out’ with a death penalty?” And they’re going “Yep. That’s it. Make one mistake and you’re gone.” You guys are harsh! So what did you say in your apology?

Zumbo: Oh, golly. Basically I said that I was completely ignorant of the widespread interest in AR15’s and similar firearms. You know, honestly Tom I’ve been hunting for, oh golly, fifty-some years and I find that every state for deer and only once have I seen anyone use an AR15 on a deer hunt. And I was just hunting coyotes in Southeast Wyoming the last four days and one of the guides told me that there’s a huge interest among prairie dog hunters using those types of guns and I didn’t believe him. And you know I must be living in a vacuum. I really didn’t. And I’m wrong. I can see now where there are a lot of folks, and good folks – I’ve already talked to some people today, one guy who’s a SWAT team officer and was in the military and, uh, told me I was wrong, and I agreed with him and we had a nice conversation so hopefully he’ll take my apology as well as everyone else. But one thing that bothers me is some things being said about me being unpatriotic. And, as I said in my blog, I fly the flag every day of the year in front of my house.

Gresham: Yeah, I’ve been to your house. I know there’s a flag there.

Zumbo: (Chuckles) And last year we had an essay contest for members of our military who were in harms way, and five hundred contestants, we chose one, a fellow who was, uh, hurt badly on Christmas day in 2004 two of his buddies were killed, I took him on a free hunt to Botswana. And this year we’re taking two more members of the military on a free hunt to uh, for elk and moose, so my gosh, I absolutely support everything our military does.

Gresham: I know that.

Zumbo: And our current government. So I hate to see me placed in some kind of a…

Gresham: Well a lot of these comments are waaay over the top and off-the-wall, I mean and all you’ve got to do is look at some of these internet deals. The other thing is you always, you gotta have to remember that the internet is not necessarily the real world?

[Commercial break]

Gresham: Talking with my good friend Jim Zumbo. He’s the hunting editor of Outdoor Life, and has his own TV show on the Outdoor Channel, and he and I have hunted together various places over the years. And, uh, you’re occasionally, it’s a bad deal when you watch a friend have a train wreck or a car wreck, and I just watched Jim step in it big-time. Is that fair, Jim?

Zumbo: (Chuckles) Totally fair. Absolutely.

Gresham: OK

Zumbo: Never seen anything like it.

Gresham: Basically posted, you just wrote something on your blog, on the Outdoor Life blog, and it just caused a firestorm like I’ve never seen before, and essentially it was…

Zumbo: What a legacy to put on my tombstone, huh?

Gresham: Oh my gosh! Well, I’ve got to tell you, the thing that has probably has ticked people off the most, is when you said an AR15 is a “terrorist’s rifle.”

Zumbo: I know. I absolutely understand that, and, uh…

Gresham: ‘Cause I can tell you, I own three of them, and I love them! So, what’s going on?

Zumbo: Well, Tom, again, I’ve seen one in use in my life and, you know, people are amazed that I’m not really fascinated with guns, I’m a, I’m a hunting writer.

Gresham: Right.

Zumbo: And if I wasn’t in this business I’d probably own five guns, and I really don’t keep up with what’s going on. Last year for the first time I was fishing in Alaska. We went out in a boat, we were fishing for halibut, and someone had an AR15 and I shot at some kelp and it was a lot of fun, but I, at that point in time, again this is my opinion, I just didn’t think it was suitable for the deer woods and man, am I wrong!

Gresham: (Chuckles) Look, we’re going to start a deal about you being a kelp-killer, too. Look, I understand what you’re saying, because…

Zumbo: Let me say one thing…

Gresham: Go ahead.

Zumbo: Tom, a blog is – I’m sure you know what a blog is. When I started writing this my boss said “This is your opinion. It’s not Outdoor Life’s opinion, it’s nobody’s opinion – none of your sponsors – say what you want to say. Wake up in the morning and blog and say whatever the heck it is, and that’s what I did, and unfortunately I didn’t think this through. I had been hunting coyotes in Wyoming, the wind blew sixty miles an hour all day, I came back into camp tired and exhausted and I should have gone to bed. But I got into this discussion with a guide who told me about many hunters who were using AR15’s and similar weapons for prairie dogs, and I thought, you know, “there’s a controversial blog” and I thought I’d get maybe ten or fifteen comments and the last time I looked I’ve had 2800. But, uh, again, I totally apologize. I didn’t realize how many folks use ’em, and – you’re going to love this – I just talked to Ted Nugent, and Ted said “Zumbo, you know you and I go back a long ways but you screwed up. So now Ted and I are planning on a deer hunt. We’re using AR15’s. How’s that?

Gresham: Outstanding! Good for you guys.

Zumbo: Now that’s a true story! I’m not making that up!

Gresham: No, I know. You know, look. I came to this slowly. See, I came to guns kind of the same way that you did. I’m basically a hunter, and like to shoot and all. And every body knows, I’ve said many times on this show here, that I’ve never had a huge interest in military guns and don’t really know a lot about them, but I kinda got into the ARs slowly. Actually, I bought one – I’d never shot one – I bought one when they were going to have the Clinton gun ban, the Assault Weapon Ban of ’94? I said “You know, if they’re going to ban ’em, I’m going to buy one.” And that’s what got me into it. Well, after I got into it and started shooting it, I thought “This thing’s fun.” It’s kinda like – the whole time I’ve been wondering what’s everybody jazzed up about these things, then you go out and shoot one and you go “Oh, I get it. These things are a lot of fun.” Then I started finding out all the things you can do with it, and it’s a real… But, and I’ve said this a lot, I’m not saying this just now – people have heard me say it – they’re ugly. You know, AKs are ugly. ARs are ugly. Uh, they don’t appeal to my sense of what’s a pretty gun. I like nice walnut and pretty wood and all that, but I like to shoot ’em. So all that’s my way of saying I understand where you were coming from because that’s where I was before I started getting into all this.

Zumbo: Well, see, I’m probably at that, that, that level where you were when you started. Heck, who knows? I might get into those and just enjoy the heck out of them.

Gresham: OK, I’m going to give you the, uh, the last word here, and your – ’cause I’ve got a lot of people listening right now because they just found out that you’re here and they’ve all tuned in and they want to hear what Jim Zumbo who said that “I’ve got a terrorist gun” – they want to hear what you’ve got to say, so you talk directly to ’em.

Zumbo: OK. Like I said, I wrote that blog when I shouldn’t have. I was tired from a long day of hunting, and I did not think it through. And I, uh, have never shot one of those guns except once last year, and I’ve only seen one in fifty-three years of hunting in the field, and I just honestly had a perception that they weren’t really want to be perceived as, as hunters carrying around in the woods and I’m wrong. Now I realize how many folks use them, and I intend to use one myself and try it out, and uh, You know, we all make mistakes, and I just hope the folks who were offended will give me the, the opportunity to say “Hey, I’m sorry” and do all the damage control I can. Once caller said “Hey, man, you have now offered ammo to all the wrong people” and he’s probably in a sense right, and I really apologize for that.

Gresham: Well, you know, and look. I was saying earlier, you and I have probably been through at least two big battles that – where you and I were standing shoulder-to-shoulder fighting for gun rights, defending, in one case – we walked away from a, essentially from a family of people that we’d known for thirty years.

Zumbo: Exactly right. You and I both stood up for the NRA in a scenario that…

Gresham: We divorced ourselves from a couple thousand good friends because of that.

Zumbo: Yup. After thirty-five years of professionally acquainted with that organization you and I walked because it was offensive to gun writers and shooters, and I wanted to say, too, that what I said was completely my opinion. You know none of the companies that I deal with had any knowledge of what I wrote. I wrote it spontaneously. It was late at night and I shouldn’t have. So, you know I hope that they don’t bear the brunt of what I said. If they do, again I apologize, and that was never the intent for, for what I had, uh, for what I had blogged about.

Gresham: Alright.

Zumbo: I just shoulda not stuck my foot in my mouth, Tom.

The opinion I am left with is one that many, many people on many boards and in many comments have left – Zumbo just doesn’t get it. As he said to Gresham, “I’m a hunting writer”. That is, “I’m not a gun guy.” That’s pretty obvious. It’s also obvious that Gresham is trying to cover for his good friend.

I’m reminded again of St. George Tucker’s Blackstone’s Commentaries explanation of the Second Amendment and how our law differed from England’s:

The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law.

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government.

Whoever examines the forest, and game laws in the British code, will readily perceive that the right of keeping arms is effectually taken away from the people of England. The commentator himself informs us, “that the prevention of popular insurrections and resistence [sic] to government by disarming the bulk of the people, is a reason oftener meant than avowed by the makers of the forest and game laws.”

[A separate discussion in an Appendix, specifically about the Second Amendment.]

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.

This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty…. The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms, is under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.

In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorise the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty.

(Via Eugene Volokh.)

Jim Zumbo is hardly the first person to look at gun ownership through a personal prism, or allowed himself to be the tool of others, but he is the highest-profile person to have done so publicly in my memory. This is the wedge that the Brady Bunch, et al. have tried to use for decades to divide the gun-rights community – the “I’m alright, bub, but I’m not so sure about YOU” attitude, the “You don’t need that kind of gun to hunt deer” accusation. This wedge is best exemplified by the Violence Policy Center’s unabashed use of the public’s fear of “evil black rifles” in their 1988 strategic paper:

Assault weapons are increasingly being perceived by legislators, police organizations, handgun restriction advocates, and the press as a public health threat. As these weapons come to be associated with drug traffickers, paramilitary extremists, and survivalists, their television and movie glamour is losing its lustre to a violent reality.

Because of this fact, assault weapons are quickly becoming the leading topic of America’s gun control debate and will most likely remain the leading gun control issue for the near future. Such a shift will not only damage America’s gun lobby, but strengthen the handgun restriction lobby for the following reasons:

* It will be a new topic in what has become to the press and public an “old” debate.

Although handguns claim more than 20,000 lives a year, the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. The reasons for this vary: the power of the gun lobby; the tendency of both sides of the issue to resort to sloganeering and pre-packaged arguments when discussing the issue; the fact that until an individual is affected by handgun violence he or she is unlikely to work for handgun restrictions; the view that handgun violence is an “unsolvable” problem; the inability of the handgun restriction movement to organize itself into an effective electoral threat; and the fact that until someone famous is shot, or something truly horrible happens, handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons.

* Efforts to stop restrictions on assault weapons will only further alienate the police from the gun lobby.

Until recently, police organizations viewed the gun lobby in general, and the NRA in particular, as a reliable friend. This stemmed in part from the role the NRA played in training officers and its reputation regarding gun safety and hunter training. Yet, throughout the 1980s, the NRA has found itself increasingly on the opposite side of police on the gun control issue. Its opposition to legislation banning armor-piercing ammunition, plastic handguns, and machine guns, and its drafting of and support for the McClure/Volkmer handgun decontrol bill, burned many of the bridges the NRA had built throughout the past hundred years. As the result of this, the Law Enforcement Steering Committee was formed. The Committee now favors such restriction measures as waiting periods with background check for handgun purchase and a ban on machine guns and plastic firearms. If police continue to call for assault weapons restrictions, and the NRA continues to fight such measures, the result can only be a further tarnishing of the NRA’s image in the eyes of the public, the police, and NRA members. The organization will no longer be viewed as the defender of the sportsman, but as the defender of the drug dealer.

Or the “terrorist.”

* Efforts to restrict assault weapons are more likely to succeed than those to restrict handguns.

Although the majority of Americans favor stricter handgun controls, and a consistent 40 percent of Americans favor banning the private sale and possession of handguns, many Americans do believe that handguns are effective weapons for home self-defense and the majority of Americans mistakenly believe that the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the individual right to keep and bear arms. Yet, many who support the individual’s right to own a handgun have second thoughts when the issue comes down to assault weapons. Assault weapons are often viewed the same way as machine guns and “plastic” firearms—a weapon that poses such a grave risk that it’s worth compromising a perceived constitutional right.

(Bold emphasis mine. Italics in original.) Zumbo just provided them with a tremendous whack on the back of that wedge. I think the overall outrage directed at Zumbo is in large part due to our shock that someone who was perceived to be a “gun guy” would think something as divisive as he obviously did, much less put it in print – a reaction best illustrated by the winner of the AR15.com photoshop contest:


(Credit to new AR15.com contributor mrbear! His first post!)

But he says it himself, he’s not a “gun guy” – he’s a hunter, and “evil black rifles” have (had) no place in his pantheon. They’re “terrorist rifles” to him, because he’s only seen one person hunt with them. (And he didn’t approve, I imagine.) I can’t find the link right now, but on some gun or hunting board Michael Bane reported that Zumbo once asked him how many firearms he owned. Bane’s response was “a lot.” Zumbo replied that he’d taken game on every continent with only seven rifles. As far too many have pointed out, it’s the same as the guy with six $40k Perrazi shotguns who thinks that handguns aren’t necessary, and concealed-weapons laws are dangerous. Zumbo is in a class of people who see hunting as the only legitimate use for firearms, and any firearms not suitable for hunting are unnecessary.

We call them Fudds, for Elmer Fudd, the clueless rabbit (or duck) hunter. What’s good enough for them is good enough, period. Nobody “needs” anything other than what they, themselves, possess. They’re blinkered. They’re so tied up in their own sport, they give no consideration to others, and they don’t even think about the right that allows them to practice their sport. See this rather pointed piece of art, also from AR15.com:


By Steve_T_M

And Zumbo’s not alone. According to a post at AR15.com, gunwriter David M. Fortier reports that outdoor writers Bill McRae and Thomas McIntyre agree with Jim’s original statement. To quote an email from McRae to Fortier:

I agree wholeheartedly with Jim on this and I don’t give a damn who does or does not like it. Furthermore, I applaud Jim for having had the courage to say what he said.

The accusation of McIntyre was second-hand, but one wonders if Mr. McRae or Mr. McIntyre will have the courage to support Mr. Zumbo’s original post publicly themselves now, given the fallout. At the time of this writing, many of Zumbo’s sponsors have publicly bailed on him: Remington, Mossy Oak, High Mountain Jerky and Spices, and DPMS Panther Arms. Cabela’s has announced in a press release:

On Monday, February 19, Cabela’s suspended sponsorship of the Jim Zumbo Outdoors television show until Cabela’s Legal Department could review contractual obligations and commitments relating to our business relationship. As of Tuesday, February 20, Cabela’s has ceased our business relationship with Mr. Zumbo.

Cabela’s strongly disagrees with Mr. Zumbo’s February 16 posting on his Hunting with Jim Zumbo blog on Outdoor Life’s Web site. His opinions on this matter run counter to the beliefs shared by Cabela’s more than 12,000 employees, many of whom are hunters, recreational shooters and firearm enthusiasts.

Outdoor Life has pulled Zumbo’s blog “for the time being,” and his television show may have disappeared from the Outdoor Channel, since it’s sponsored by Remington.

The excrement has well and truly hit the oscillating air-movement device. The real world has been influenced by the internet.

And Zumbo is apparently clueless as to why his comments caused such a sh!tstorm. Yes, he recognizes that he called a lot of people “terrorists,” but he completely misses the point for a lot of us. The “terrorist rifle” comment was bad enough, but what sent me over the edge was this:

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.

Ban. That word.

The first caller after Zumbo’s interview rejected his apology. Gresham defended him:

All I can tell you is that I know Jim. OK? And I’ve known Jim literally for thirty-five years. Jim is as good a person and as staunch a defender of gun rights as I know on the Earth. The only thing is, Jim only knows what Jim knows. You can’t know what you don’t know. He’s fired an AR one time in his life, doesn’t know anything about ’em, and probably the only thing he knows about ’em is what he reads in papers. That’s just a world he doesn’t know anything about. And so he threw an idea out there, screwed it up, and, you know, hey, he’s owning up to it. Um, of course he knows that terrorists, you know, the weapon is not the terrorist, and people are the terrorists. It was a real poor choice of words, and he said he wrote it late at night. Of course, the problem here – you know, when you write for a magazine you get to write something, then it sits there, then you send it in and it’s three of four months before it gets published and everybody else gets a chance at it, to edit it or come back and say “Hey, is that what you really meant to say?” You really shouldn’t write something like this, late at night, and hit the “SEND” button and post it on the internet for the world to see without a chance to sleep on it.

Sorry, but “staunch defenders of gun rights” don’t go using words like “ban.” Period. I don’t give a damn how tired they are.

Unfortunately, the fallout of this self-immolation provides ammunition for our opposition. Because Jim Zumbo is was such a well-respected writer, his words will, undoubtedly, be used against the rest of the gun community. Zumbo might not be a “gun guy,” but how did he miss the original 1994 Assault Weapon Ban – the ban that prompted his good friend Tom Gresham to buy an Evil Black Rifle? How could he not be aware that, with a new Democrat Congress, new attempts to pass gun bans would be quick in coming? How could he be that detached from the politics?

Because he’s a hunter, and hunting is all that matters to him.

Look at this piece from yesterday’s Chattanoogan.com:

Jim Zumbo, Hunting Editor for Outdoor Life magazine, angered firearms enthusiasts across the country with a weekend blog posting. His blog has now been suspended and sponsors are severing ties with Zumbo in spite of his apology.

Zumbo went on to say “game departments should ban them from the praries (sic) and woods.”

At that point, however, there was little, if anything, that would assuage an angry horde of electronically mobilized AR 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.

Zumbo’s ill-considered blog may not have been intended to create good-gun, bad-gun categories, but it has certainly raised firebrand rhetoric to an art form. Rather than hunters being supported by recreational and competitive shooting enthusiasts, they have now become “Fudds” to shooters who feel they have been labeled “terrorists” by a “hard-core hunter.”

It’s truly not a pretty picture, but may observers say it accurately reflects a widening gap between “traditional” and “non-traditional” shooting enthusiasts.

With Congress reconsidering the Assault Weapon Ban and Connecticut and New Jersey considering legislation that would limit handgun purchases to one per month, this latest schism is already being used as further evidence of the “need” to regulate firearms -all firearms – more stringently.

Thank you Jim Zumbo.

This is a mistake that might very well cost Zumbo his profession. But as I said in my second post on this topic, the question remains, though, if he’ll educate himself enough to alter his opinion. Zumbo is a gun-bigot. Gresham even acknowledges that he was one himself once. But neither of them comment much on that fact. Zumbo blames the fact that he was tired, but if in vinum, veritas, why not in fatigo, veritas?

Gresham’s last comment was this:

I’m just saying it seems a whole lot less than charitable to me to tell a guy “You screwed up, and you can never make up for it. I will never accept your apology. There’s nothing you can do. It’s one mistake and it’s a death-penalty deal.” That does not seem right to me. I think you’ve got to let a guy say “I screwed up.”

And I agree. But it’s essential not that he just say “I screwed up,” he must understand WHAT his screwup was. Otherwise he’s apologizing for the wrong thing, and that does no good at all.

His apology, both written and verbal, was “I had no idea how many people hunt with these guns.” Not “I should have never suggested banning a firearm for any reason.”

Tam put it best this morning in the opening line of her post An Army of Davids, illustrated:

On Friday evening, a gunwriter who was apparently tired of his 42-year career put his word processor in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

There’s an epitaph for you.

UPDATE: Tom Gresham gets it. Finally. (h/t to Sailorcurt.)

And Cowboy Blob has some excellent advice for Zumbo.

Jim Shepherd of The Shooting Wire opines too. (Temporary link. Scroll down to the op-ed.)

UPDATE: Outdoor Life announces Zumbo’s resignation, but Zumbo characterizes it as being “fired” in a post at Ted Nugent’s message board. He also announces that his TV show has been cancelled. Here’s the kicker:

I hold no grudges. I will continue to stand as firm on pro hunting as I’ve ever done. But what’s different now is that I’ll do all I can to educate others who are, or were, as ignorant as I was about “black” rifles and the controversy that surrounds them. My promise to you is that I’ll learn all I can about these firearms, and by the time this week is out, I’ll order one. The NUGE has invited me to hunt with him using AR-15’s, and I’m eager to go, and learn. I’ll do all I can to spread the word.

I understand that many of you will not accept this apology, believing that the damage has been done and there’s no way to repair it. You have that right. But let me say this. I mentioned this above, and I’ll repeat it. I’m willing to seize this opportunity to educate hunters and shooters who shared my ignorance. If you’re willing to allow me to do that, we can indeed, in my mind, form a stronger bond within our ranks. Maybe in a roundabout way we can bring something good out of this.

RTWT. Six pages of response so far.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wow. Just… wow. DirtCrashr links to this NRA press release: “NRA Publications has suspended its professional ties with Mr. Zumbo.”

MORE: Via David Codrea, Gerber cuts Zumbo loose, too. That leaves what, Swarovski?

I hope Zumbo’s retirement plan was fully financed.

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