Let's all relax about the Zumbo affair a little. A great deal of what Zumbo has said has been represented poorly by both sides, so let's break it down a bit. There are five issues that I think we need to look at within the scope of this issue.
1) Terrorist Rifles: Zumbo did refer to AR-15 as "terrorist rifles." Now, I know that guns haven't been a popular rights issue for Democrats or the left. However, over the last few years, we have had zero tolerance for the hard-leaning conservatives who have claimed that we're giving aid and comfort to our enemies or terrorists because we question the current administration's policies in Iraq. We backlashed as hard as we could when a senior defense official called for corporations to stop supporting or employing attorneys who do pro bono work for Guantanamo detainees. We (as a group) have upon occasion called for peoples' firing or resignation during these times.
So, I think we have created for ourselves a bit of a double standard here. Many anti-gun Democrats have such a knee jerk reaction to the bad old National Rifle Association, that anything they do is immediately bad. The NRA and the "gun nuts" ruined some poor guy for directly implying that they were terrorists. However, referring to someone as a terrorist for these so-called "assault rifles" is pretty bad. I'm not usually one to cast a big stone, and I don't think Zumbo should have been ruined for this, but when we see someone referring to an American Citizen as a terrorist for using their First Amendment rights, we're appalled. We call for resignations, firings, angst and anger, sound and fury, boycotts and sit-ins, marches on the Mall. But when someone exercises a right that Democrats (myself and many NOT included) don't necessarily agree with, we call the people who do fight back "gun nuts" and certainly worse.
Let's add a premise: Exercising and defending ANY of our Constitutional Rights and Rights enumerated in the Amendments and Bill of Rights should be defended by all. We all support the ACLU when they defend the KKK's right to assemble. Likewise, we should support people who exercise their Second Amendment rights, even when we do not.
Now, I'm usually loathe to discuss in such public forums my own beliefs and actions. This is only my second blog post, and it makes me nervous. I personally, own an AR-15 rifle (for those interested, it's a Colt 6920, pretty much stock except for a Knights RAS). And I do take exception to being labeled a terrorist. I'm one of those who believes that the Second Amendment is an individual right, that self defense is also an important right, and that the very existence of the Second Amendment is an important check against tyranny; even more so with the erosion of rights we've witnessed in our lifetimes (please note, I am not in any way advocating violence). I’ve never been arrested, nor do I hunt, and I don’t want to do either. The hunters among us can chime in. Besides that, I am neither criminal nor terrorist. While we bristle at the thought of people trampling our First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights through legislation or implication of some sort of treason, so too should we bristle when others are painted the same way for their beliefs in rights also codified in our Federal and State Constitutions.
2) Hunting and the Second Amendment: Let's get this straight: Hunting has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. One's right to own a certain type of firearm should not be tied to whether or not you hunt, where you hunt, or what type of animals you hunt. The Second Amendment is about defense of the nation, a check against tyranny, and peoples' rights to own firearms in support of those ideals (Please note that I say in support of, not subject to). It's not a state right, it's not (in my opinion) a collective right, it's a right guaranteed. Further, many states have self defense as part of that right in their own constitutions.
So let us not pretend that limiting the right to own firearms because they are suited to hunting doesn't by definition reduce the rights of the people. Even if you are against guns, it is an unarguable fact that limiting gun ownership reduces a right that exists today. Let's not try oblique ways to limit rights. As Zak J. recently said (along with a lot of others throughout our history), rights should always be interpreted expansively, and the burden of proof for limiting rights should be on those who seek to do so. That proof should be overwhelmingly compelling, and it should make its case without attempts at oblique arguments.
3) The NRA: The NRA is, for better or worse, perceived as a bastion of the far right. That's unfortunate. It does occasionally, do good things in defense of our liberties. The ACLU seems to have forgotten the Second Amendment while it defends the rest, so someone needs to do it. I'm not sure that the NRA has always been well managed, well thought of, or particularly magnanimous in reaching out to all for education. In essence though, it is defending an important right (at least important to some 40-80 million people). Our knee-jerk reactions should not be, "Oh the NRA's in this one? Well then I'm against it." This is equally true for the “right” when it discusses the ACLU. I personally am a member of neither at the moment. I want to be a member of both, but the fact that the ACLU ignores one important right and the fact that the NRA has been mismanaged have kept me out of both. I hope that soon I can be convinced to join both, because in theory, they are important bastions in the check against government's encroachment on our rights.
4) Lessons learned: If there is one thing that this instance can show, it's that guns and the Second Amendment are an incredibly important issue to a lot of people. It's slowly becoming a third rail of politics. While some argue that it's another reason to dismiss gun owners as crazy and irrational, it's not. If anything, it shows that guns should be left off the Democratic legislative agenda (as I stated in a previous post) and that we might even have a little bit of a double standard.
5) What about Zumbo? I don't think Zumbo should have been ruined for his comment. I think he made a mistake, and even a pretty big one. But I think he's going to learn from it. Pat Rogers, ex-Marine and NYPD Sergeant in the Counter Terrorism business, has invited Zumbo to EAGTactical's Carbine Operators course, and Zumbo has apparently accepted. I think we should offer Zumbo the benefit of the doubt. Let's see what comes of his new education, and maybe, just maybe, we'll have another well-respected advocate in our community.