If you’ve never heard of Jim Zumbo, you certainly won’t now.
The outdoors personality and big game hunter had his weekly TV show on the Outdoors network and position as hunting editor with Outdoor Life magazine abruptly terminated last week for criticizing the use of military-style assault rifles by hunters to shoot coyotes and prairie dogs.
"Sorry, folks, in my humble opinion, these things have no place in hunting," began the statement that spelled his epitaph. "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.’"
On cue, thousands of knee jerk assault rifle fans hunt and pecked their indignation to the TV station, magazine and their respective sponsors and Zumbo was dispatched like the Canadian bear he posed with in 2004.
Zumbo may have given 40 years to outdoor reporting and hunted all fifty states but he was now "Jim Dumbo" to his ex-followers and his web site "Powered by the Brady Campaign."
Pleased with the performance of its backyard Rambos–defending their redwood decks miles from any war zone—the NRA lost no time in telling Congress You’re Next if it tries any monkey business with semi-automatic firearms. As if Congress could lose Viagra, Mossy Oak and Cabela’s ads like the gun media.
Nor was the NRA through in issuing its "Taliban tickets."
It accused Billings, Montana Mayor Ron Tussing of being part of an "anti-gun coalition" for his membership in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns which seeks to prosecute illegal gun traffickers and dealers and improve firearm tracing laws. (But weren’t armed criminals the reason the "good guys" have to arm? Am I missing something?) One mayor, Jared Furiman of Idaho Falls, Idaho, even resigned from the pressure.
"It boggles my mind that anybody would want to handcuff law enforcement," says Tussing, a former law enforcement officer himself with memories of 28 rounds fired at his SWAT team by criminals during an operation in Nebraska.
Tussing tried to soften his position–saying he doubted Billings would conduct the New York City style "stings" against gun dealers that have outraged the gun crowd–but no cigar. Zumbo also apologized saying he’d had a rough day hunting coyotes in bad weather and needed sleep.
Yeah, Yeah. We heard you the first time.
While a Kill Your Critics policy seems strange from a group that bases its power on a democracy’s constitution, it is also not working.
Outdoors writer Pat Wray, for example, who himself was Zumbo-ed and Tussing-ed on the NRA web site last year for appearing to side with its enemies, isn’t self censoring.
"For decades the NRA has fostered a climate of fear and paranoia among gun owners," writes Wray in the Corvallis Gazette-Times in Oregon. "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."
Frank Abderholden of the News Sun in Illinois has also spoken out, asking how "Leave my Rocket Propelled Grenade alone" is fundamentally different from "Leave my gun alone."
Of course the danger in the NRA’s scorched earth policy is not ruined careers–Zumbo won’t be waiting tables at Denny’s–but appeasement.
Because like the tiger that is chasing you and your friend, to appease the NRA you only have to run faster than your friend.