Column on writer sparks strong reaction

Well, it's been quite a week. In my Tuesday column, I wrote about the firing of noted gun writer Jim Zumbo from "Outdoor Life" magazine. Zumbo wrote a blog Feb. 16 that called for state game departments to ban AR-15s, AK-47s and other similar semi-automatic rifles for hunting. These rifles - often called "black rifles" often have their roots in military weapons.

Zumbo's blog ignited a firestorm from many firearms owners.

Zumbo later retracted his comments, but he still lost his job and television show sponsorships from firearm and hunting companies.

I wrote that torching Zumbo for one blog was troubling to me, as it showed a lack of tolerance in the outdoors community for different opinions. All of us who hunt, fish, shoot or do just about anything outdoors depend on society's tolerance to continue our sports. If we can't tolerate each other, how can we expect society at large to tolerate us?

Anyway, lots of letters and e-mails and phone calls - pro and con - came in.

Thanks to all who wrote and called.

Here is a selection:


I have thought about sending you a note for quite some time now, and your article on Jim Zumbo just sort of provided the final motivation. I have shared an opinion similar to that expressed by Jim Zumbo for a long time. In fact, it caused me to cancel my membership with the NRA (to whom I was enrolled by my father before 10 years old) many years ago on their stand against automatic weapons, which I thought completely unreasonable. No one needs automatic weapons. I totally believe in gun rights and ownership, but Zumbo was really given a bum rap and the industry should be ashamed.

I also realize that these "assault weapons" are not fully automatic but they normally are not conducive to effective hunting due to either the caliber, magazine capacity or barrel length. I don't care if people own them, they have a perfect right to love and shoot them, but hunting is a reach for those of us who believe in fair chase and clean kills.

I also want to add that I have been an avid bowhunter for 35 years and have not hunted with a rifle in all that time, but I do hunt pheasant, ducks and geese with a shotgun. We also have ethical issues, mostly due to the industry encouraging long shooting in order to sell more gadgets, thus younger guys miss the point that bow hunting is a short range sport and that should be the objective - to get close as possible - but that is not why I write you.

Mostly, the purpose of this note is to thank you for your fine articles in The Olympian, including the fishing ones. It is really great to see something positive about hunting in this newspaper that in the past has demonstrated a really nonhunting attitude, (but I suppose loved by the ultra-

liberal, anti-everything population of Olympia). Once in awhile (like once a year, maybe) begrudgingly, an article about fishing but except for a blurb about opening day of deer season, never ever anything about hunting.

Thank you very much for your writing. I look forward each day to see what you are writing, even if you are snob fly fisherman, like my son.

Fred Allen, Olympia

Hi Chester. A colleague forwarded your article on Jim Zumbo to me, and it was a good read. I, too, sympathize with Zumbo. He was indeed an expert in his craft, and a gentleman who gave much to the outdoor sports, especially hunting.

Jim's error was that he threw his fellow shooting and hunting enthusiasts under the bus in order to try to save his own image of what the hunter and outdoorsman should be. Jim didn't recognize that calling one of the most popular and fastest growing market segments "terrorists" and "terrorist rifles" was going to bring a backlash. Many do, in fact, hunt with the rifles he vilified, my family included, and it is in that vein that the greatest expansion of our sport will occur. Jim doesn't recognize that it's the shooting side of the industry, not hunting, that is driving sales. Politically, Jim is one of the many hunters that believe that if the ARs, AKs, and high capacity pistols go away, he will be spared his hunting rifles and shotguns. He doesn't understand that the 2nd Amendment isn't about deer and elk hunting.

Jim also provided the Brady Bunch some of the best gun-control fodder they've had in a long time. That, in itself, demands the most swift and resolute of response.

Jim is entitled to his opinion and to the free expression of them. He must also bear the responsibility for them. We are entitled to our opinion as well. We are further entitled to provide social, political, and financial feedback to him and those who keep company with him when he tramples others. Opinion is not without consequence, and should not be.

The process of rehabilitating Jim Zumbo is already under way. When he is educated, he will be an example to all others who would throw their fellow sportsmen, hunters, shooters, gamers, and collectors, under the bus to save their skin. Jim Zumbo was at the top of his game with a lifetime of accomplishment. We cannot, and will not, suffer our own icons hurling fireballs at us from their perch. When they do, we will knock them on their metaphorical ass, no matter who and how beloved they are.

I encourage you to reread Jim's blogs again, and more fully digest the meaning and implications of the words therein.

(this e-mail was not signed)

Dear Chester,

Thank you for your opinion on Zumbo, but my concern was him implying that I am a terrorist.

That was the fatal mistake to his career. I don't hunt, and I believe that killing hundreds of animals for fun is sick and cruel, but I still support the rights of hunters. I shoot paper targets with a precise semi-auto rifle, not slaughter animals with it or consider it to be a terrorist weapon.

Zumbo was someone who I supported indirectly through my purchasing and advertising dollars, and that was no longer acceptable after his remarks.

Thank for your time,

Lance Kilgore,

Excel Automotive - President

West Coast Armory - Owner

K&S Investment - Member

LMK Properties - Member

Hi Chester,

Yes, I'm back. Your column in today's paper is too good to keep quiet.

The NRA and the religious fundamentalists are hard to tell apart. When I heard this story originally, I couldn't help but think of Salmon Rushdie (sp?) and his bout with the Muslim clerics in the Middle East. They set out to stamp out his physical life, whereas the NRA has set out to stamp out Jim Zumbo's economic life.

They are all fanatics. If you don't hold to the sacred scripture, be it the Koran, the Bible, or the NRA commandments, it's off with your head.

And as far as hunting is concerned, since we've done away with grizzlies, wolves, and most cougars, the only predators left to control exploding animal populations are hunters. That seems to me to be a fact of life.

James Boone, Olympia

Hi Chester,

Excellent article in The Olympian today.

One of the most important things about this great country is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

We need to make sure that everyone understands that.

J.R. Stoddard

Owner, Cougar Publishing

Mr Allen,

I read your column with interest, but have to wonder if you actually read Jim Zumbo's article. You are factually incorrect in relating what Mr. Zumbo wrote and you mischaracterize both his article and the response by thousands of gun owners.

You are factually wrong when you write, "Zumbo said he was against using AR-15 rifles - the semi-automatic civilian version of the rifle our Marines and soldiers carry - for hunting." and wrong again with "It's important to realize that Zumbo - a strong supporter of the National Rifle Association for decades - didn't call for banning AR-15 rifles. He was just talking about how he felt about hunters using those weapons to hunt game.

I have little doubt that he would still be employed today if that was what he had written, possibly with an increased readership with dissenting views interested in joining the debate.

Instead he wrote "I call them "assault" rifles, which may upset some people", then after willfully "upsetting some people" deliberately insulted every U.S. service member and U.S. civilian AR15 owner by writing "I'll go so far as to call them "terrorist" rifles". His career might even have survived that onslaught, but he then sealed his fate by calling for a BAN on AR-15s from hunting, "I say game departments should ban them from the praries (sic) and woods".

To lend some context, just days before he wrote these words, the most repressive anti-gun legislation in U.S. history was introduced in the U.S. Congress (HR 1022) calling for a ban on the very firearms he was writing about, among many others.

You wrote, "The issue is whether our society is splintering into factions that can't tolerate anyone with slightly different beliefs. I'm afraid that we're all gathering in groups to glare at each other over fences - and I'm just talking about the outdoors world. Since when is anyone evil for saying what they believe?".

Society is and always has been split into diametrically opposed factions on numerous issues. In this specific instance, the Second Amendment has been hotly debated since 1787, and it is a gross mischaracterization to say the opposing factions have "slightly different beliefs".

I believe your words are a gross mischaracterization of the events leading to Mr. Zumbo's demise, and further believe that you express an unreasonable position.

Few if any of us who voiced our outrage to Mr. Zumbo and his employers/sponsors said or felt that he was "evil". He simply put himself on the side of the opposition in a fight that is of supreme importance to many gun owners. Having taken that position, it would seem eminently reasonable to me that he should lose his employment as a hunting/gun writer.

Surely you would agree that an industry (faction) writer must by definition publicly support the industry he writes for or find another job. Would you expect to remain a professional outdoor writer if you endorsed the privatization of all public lands and the elimination of public access to wilderness areas (an issue currently being debated in congress)?

At the exact moment when gun ownership in America came under grave assault, Mr. Zumbo came down squarely in support of the opposition. His stated position was in direct conflict with the positions of both his readers and his sponsors.

That would have been more than enough justification for his dismissal, but he further showed his basic incompetence as a professional hunting writer by claiming ignorance of the fact that AR-15s are widely used in all types of hunting.

It would have been a travesty had he retained his position as a professional hunting/gun writer and spokesman.


Leon Rogers Online

For more Letters to Chester, go to www.theolympian.com/chesterallen.