Jim Zumbo is probably no stranger to Montana hunters. The longtime outdoors writer and editor wrote for six hunting magazines, appeared on multiple hunting TV shows (including one he hosted), and authored 20 books on the subject.
But if you haven’t read Zumbo’s columns before, you probably won’t get a chance to any time soon.
On Feb. 16, after a long day of coyote hunting with representatives from Remington Arms Co., Zumbo sat down at his computer and wrote a 251-word blog entry that ended up costing him his 40-year career.
It started when Zumbo’s guide told him that semiautomatic AR and AK military-style rifles were increasingly popular among varmint hunters. Zumbo, surprised that hunters were turning to the machine gun look-alikes for sporting purposes, referred to the guns in that day’s blog entry as “terrorist rifles” and wrote that he saw “no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity.”
“As hunters, we don’t need the image of walking around the woods carrying one of these weapons,” Zumbo wrote, adding: “I say game departments should ban them from the prairies and woods.”
Zumbo’s statements triggered a firestorm from the pro-gun crowd. The first few comments on Zumbo’s Outdoor Life blog generally supported his sentiments, but by the next afternoon the website had been inundated with hundreds of comments condemning Zumbo and calling for boycotts of his sponsors, Outdoor Life and anyone else with ties to the writer. Within a week Outdoor Life—the magazine for which he had worked as hunting editor for almost 30 years—fired him, his TV show was cancelled, and nearly all of his sponsors severed ties.
The National Rifle Association issued a statement noting that members of Congress should pay attention to Zumbo’s fate, warning that any attempt to ban semiautomatic weapons would be met by the same “grassroots” passion directed at Zumbo.
But what the Zumbo incident really tells us is that the NRA’s brand of ideological purity leaves no room for differing viewpoints. And what’s sad is that a relatively small cadre of paranoid gun owners who’ve long been drinking NRA’s divided-we-fall Kool-Aid destroyed the career of one of their biggest champions.
Personnel Note: Indy editor Brad Tyer embarks this week on a three-month sabbatical before returning to the paper in June. In the interim, arts editor Skylar Browning is running the show. Please address news queries to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keeping Skylar’s seat warm as interim arts editor will be former Indy calendar editor Jason Wiener, reachable at email@example.com.