'Terrorist' Remark Puts Outdoorsman's Career in Jeopardy
Zumbo's Criticism of Hunters Who Use Assault Rifles Brings Unforgiving Response From U.S. Gun Culture
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 24, 2007; Page A03
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 Web site. 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."
The reaction -- from tens of thousands of owners of assault rifles across the country, from media and manufacturers rooted in the gun business, and from the National Rifle Association -- has been swift, severe and unforgiving. Despite a profuse public apology and a vow to go hunting soon with an assault weapon, Zumbo's career appears to be over.
His top-rated weekly TV program on the Outdoor Channel, his longtime career with Outdoor Life magazine and his corporate ties to the biggest names in gunmaking, including Remington Arms Co., have been terminated or are on the ropes.
The NRA on Thursday pointed to the collapse of Zumbo's career as an example of what can happen to anyone, including a "fellow gun owner," who challenges the right of Americans to own or hunt with assault-style firearms.
From his home near Cody, Wyo., Zumbo declined repeated telephone requests for comment. He is a 40-year NRA member and has appeared with NRA officials in 70 cities, according to his Web site.
In announcing that it was suspending its professional ties with Zumbo, the NRA -- a well-financed gun lobby that for decades has fought attempts to regulate assault weapons -- noted that the new Congress should pay careful attention to the outdoors writer's fate.
"Our folks fully understand that their rights are at stake," the NRA statement said. It warned that the "grassroots" passion that brought down Zumbo shows that millions of people would "resist with an immense singular political will any attempts to create a new ban on semi-automatic firearms."
Some outdoors writers drew a different lesson from Zumbo's horrible week.
"This shows the zealousness of gun owners to the point of actual foolishness," said Pat Wray, a freelance outdoors writer in Corvallis, Ore., and author of "A Chukar Hunter's Companion."
Wray said that what happened to Zumbo is a case study in how the NRA has trained members to attack their perceived enemies without mercy.
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The "I wanna hunt with machine guns crowd " are a bunch of douche bags who parade the second amendment issue around like it will ultimately be defined to allow ownership of 105 howitzers .
Gadzooks. I love to watch americans. You folks are like those japanese who fight to get on game shows where they wear diapers filled with cockroaches and sing the national anthem really loud.
Don't go thinking we're "brothers in arms" CJ (I don't even own one). I think you and yours are mostly nutcases but nutcases that serve a valuable purpose in defending the constitution. The NRA is to the Second Amendment what Larry Flint is to the First Amendment. I would contribute not one dime to either, but recognize the residual effect of their seemingly outlandish positions as a necessary defense of the United States Constitution. When the ACLU defends the KKK's right to organize, I respect them with the same rationale.
CLEVELAND -- The American Civil Liberties Union today praised the Cleveland Mayor Michael White for his efforts to protect the First Amendment right of marchers scheduled to rally in Cleveland later this month.
The August 21st rally by the Ku Klux Klan has been the source of considerable controversy, with some community leaders critical of the decision to allow the Klan to march at all. Others have criticized the mayor for a decision allowing Klansmen to use a police garage to don their robes and hoods.
While recognizing the offensive and racist nature of the Klan's message, the ACLU today commended White for allowing the marchers to prepare in an environment safe from physical violence.
Living in a free society is a benefit as well detraction. In our country the First Amendment of the constitution gives us freedom of speech. However this right to free speech comes with the sacrifice of having to hear opinions that are repugnant to the majority. So we have the incongruous situation, like oil and water, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defending the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
The ACLU defends our First Amendment right to free speech, as well as our other rights. The ACLU goes to court to fight those who would deny us these rights. Interestingly enough, it is usually the same government, which has given us these rights that tries to take them away. The ACLU defends free speech for all people and organizations no matter what their message or how reprehensible their views might be. "The ACLU believes that the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and press would be meaningless if the government could pick and choose the persons to whom these rights apply," said Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.