By James Hamblin
ASPEN, Colo. — “I pose this question, Mr. Metcalf, as a hunter of birds. I have a concealed carry permit for a pistol. And I think the gun laws that are on the books today are ineffective because they’re not enforced.”
“When I got my concealed-carry permit,” the man in the audience continued, “one of the questions I had to answer was, ‘Are you a fugitive from justice?'”
“I asked the sheriff, does anyone ever answer yes to that? And he said, ‘You’d be surprised.’ But I think we need more regulation. And if I were your boss, and you’d written that column, I wouldn’t have terminated you. I’d have given you a promotion.”
But that man was not Dick Metcalf’s boss when, last year, Metcalf published a column in Guns & Ammo magazine that, in his words, ended his journalism career.
Metcalf analyzed his downfall this morning with Atlantic Media editorial director Ronald Brownstein before a standing-room-only crowd in Aspen. The nidus was a back-page opinion column that carried the incendiary headline, “Let’s Talk Limits.” It was a headline that, like so many headlines, was not written by the author, and that many vocal detractors did not read past.
In the column, Metcalf wrote that he did not believe it was an infringement of the Second Amendment to require some training before a person can have a concealed carry. He added that states can have a universal background check law without him feeling infringed upon.
The column appeared in the December 2013 issue of Guns & Ammo, but subscribers started getting it in late October. Within three days, Metcalf said, as responses poured in—by mail, in forums, and on social media—from what he called the pointed end of the bell curve, people who “think the constitution is the only law we need,” Metcalf was labeled a “gun control collaborator” and “modern-day Benedict Arnold.”
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