Zumbo, Hunters, and the Doomsday Amendment
By Don Doig
Modified from The Montana Messenger, December 2009
Well-known hunting writer, Outdoor Life columnist and Outdoor Channel personality Jim Zumbo posted a blog entry a couple of years ago which touched off a firestorm of controversy, resulting in thousands of emails to his corporate sponsors demanding his termination. The blog appeared on Sunday, and within a day or two, most of his sponsors had dropped him, including Mossy Oak, Cabelas, the Outdoor Channel. He was fired from his position as Hunting Editor of Outdoor Life.
This from Zumbo's HUNTING WITH JIM ZUMBO blog, dated 16 February 2007. I'm going to include his entire post for you to read: "Assault Rifles for Hunters?
"As I write this, I'm hunting coyotes in southeastern Wyoming with Eddie Stevenson, PR Manager for Remington Arms, Greg Dennison, who is senior research engineer for Remington, and several writers. We're testing Remington's brand new .17 cal Spitfire bullet on coyotes.
"I must be living in a vacuum. The guides on our hunt tell me that the use of AR and AK rifles have a rapidly growing following among hunters, especially prairie dog hunters. I had no clue. Only once in my life have I ever seen anyone using one of these firearms.
"I call them 'assault' rifles, which may upset some people. Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles. They tell me that some companies are producing assault rifles that are 'tack drivers'.
“Sorry, folks, in my humble opinion, these things have no place in hunting. 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'.
“This really has me concerned. As hunters, we don't need the image of walking around the woods carrying one of these weapons. 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 prairies and woods.”
If Zumbo had simply stated that he didn't like “assault” rifles and didn't think they should be used for hunting, people would have disagreed with him, but the controversy would not have gained the legs it did. But he called them “terrorist” rifles, and by extension all those who owned them could be considered “terrorists”, and he called for a limited ban. It was interesting to watch the power of the Internet put to the test, a spontaneous grassroots firestorm which must have left his head spinning. Some hunters (derisively called “Fudds” after the Bugs Bunny cartoon hunter Elmer Fudd) came to his defense, and some hunting columnists defended him. On-line responses were fast and furious and decisive.
The controversy brought out a serious concern: the failure of all too many hunters to understand and come to grips with the political nature of the Second Amendment, and why it was written. Some hunters think that if gun owners avoid controversy and stay away from weapons with a military appearance, their cherished hunting rifles will be safe from banning and confiscation. But by not paying attention, too many hunters are unaware that gun control advocates not only want to ban their “high powered long range scoped sniper rifles”, but all civilian owned guns.
Many hunters spend little time at the range, just a few shots to make sure the rifle is sighted in for this year's hunt. They are not really part of the gun culture, and are often relatively ignorant of firearms in general. Some would even ban semi-auto “assault” rifles and handguns.
I grew up in a hunting family, focusing on deer and antelope, ducks and upland game birds mostly. We were not part of what I would come to understand as the serious gun culture, but we plinked at cans, learned to shoot in the gopher fields, and took hunting seriously on the weekends when the season came. I know more about guns now, though far less than many, and am still not loading my own ammo and don't regularly shoot in competition (update: doing some of that now). The Internet is a great resource for learning anything you might want to know about firearms.
Hunter ranks are shrinking, while more and more people are becoming non-hunting gun owners. Many of these are serious shooters who spend many hours at the gun range, and even in competition. Among these folks, military-pattern semi-auto rifles becoming ever more popular. These are not actually “assault” rifles, which are military select-fire machine guns. A semi-auto rifle's mechanism of action is similar to many popular hunting rifles (and shotguns), in fact.
The Zumbo controversy has brought this disconnect among gun owners into full view and I suspect some serious education as gone on among gun owners. Dialogues in on-line letters to the editor and forum discussions have likely cause some hunters to more fully understand what is at stake.
Examples: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=ee5d3725201de633fddbd8e4b2c6b6a&t=256193&highlight=Zumbo http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2007/02/22/features/outdoors/30-mont-outdoors.txt?comments=submittedhttp://www.codyenterprise.com/articles/2007/03/07/news/news2.txt
Zumbo himself, in fact, issued a series of ever more complete apologies for his blog. After spending time at Ted Nugent's ranch trying out the “evil black rifles” and apparently getting and education on the issues involved. http://Http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=260101http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=acab40573877f9c4639f3299c31ad6fc&t=260101
The thing some hunters and gun owners don't wish to consider is why it is, that some people would want to own military-style semi-auto firearms as a civic duty.
Why was the Second Amendment included in the Bill of Rights?
Most Montanans oppose gun control, and with good cause. However, like Americans everywhere, some are a bit hazy on the details. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, protects the right of individual Americans to keep and bear arms, but which arms? Is the purpose of the Second Amendment to protect our right to hunt ducks? To plink at beer cans? To shoot in competition? Or even to protect our families from home invaders? Not primarily.
The original intent of the Second Amendment was to ensure that ordinary citizens had access to privately held weapons functionally equivalent to those carried by soldiers. The reason for this was that if push came to shove, the people would have the ability to resist the imposition of tyranny from their own government. The people were viewed by the Founders as sovereign over the government, and their military rifles were to ensure that that never changed. These days, soldiers carry machine guns (true assault rifles) and civilians are limited to semi-auto look-alikes, but even these are under attack from gun control forces. The Second Amendment also envisioned that the sovereign states would maintain active, trained independent militias, and the people would use their own personal weapons in the course of their service.
Millions of semi-auto “assault” rifle owners know what these rifles are for and have no intention of turning them in, even if they were to be made illegal.
Because the Founders believed that the people were sovereign over over the government, if necessary they had the moral authority to overthrow a government which had become tyrannical, and the Second Amendment was to ensure that individual citizens had access to privately owned firearms equal to those carried by the military, so they might be able to do just that. This properly ought to include full-auto machine guns, and the state militias should maintain state of the art crew-served weapons.
As Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, … “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government...”
I think history blames the German people for failing to rise up against Hitler. But the German people had been disarmed by actions of the Weimar Republic.
In fact, disarmed peoples have been subjected to genocide and state-sponsored mass murder throughout the 20th century, many tens of millions dead, more than 100 million at least. “The right of citizens to bear arms is just on guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.”
Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minnesota).
Judge Alex Kozinski, a federal appellate judge in the Ninth Circuit, in the case of Silveira v. Lockyer:“All too many of the other great tragedies of history – Stalin's atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few – were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated , had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily been herded into cattle cars.
“My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed – where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.”