Politics & Policy

Guns & Ammo Faces a Firing Squad of Its Own Angry Readers


Activists rally for less restrictive open carry gun legislation.

Photograph by Richard Michael Knittle Sr./Demotix/Corbis

Activists rally for less restrictive open carry gun legislation.

This week Guns & Ammo magazine came under intense criticism from its readers for publishing an editorial column supporting limited gun-control regulation. Now the magazine is scrambling to survive the damage.

Writing in the December issue, longtime Guns & Ammo contributor Dick Metcalf penned a column arguing that firearm regulations do not inherently amount to an infringement of the Second Amendment. ”I bring this up because way too many gun owners still believe that any regulation of the right to continue to keep and bear arms is an infringement,” he wrote (pdf). “The fact is that all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.”

The column was soon picked up by several conservative media outlets and quickly spread across the Web. Gun-rights advocates were not pleased.

With the proliferation of social media outlets and the interconnectedness of online communication, it has never been easier for a group of annoyed customers to recruit a like-minded crowd and launch a boycott against a publisher. And sure enough, angry readers unleashed a torrent of outraged messages on the magazine’s Facebook (FB) page.

One of the fundamental principles of contemporary damage-control theory is that brands can’t wait until the online storm hits to begin cultivating their most ardent and loyal defenders. At that point, goes the thinking, once a viral complaint gets rolling, it’s often too late to stop. All a targeted brand can do is apologize, beg for forgiveness, wait until the attention deficit-addled news cycle moves on to the next controversy, and hope that the resulting damage isn’t fatal.

So this week Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette took to the magazine’s website to apologize, tell readers that Guns & Ammo had terminated its relationship with the column’s author, and announce his own resignation. “I made a mistake by publishing the column,” wrote Bequette. “I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness.”

If it’s any consolation to the magazine’s publisher, controversial magazine issues often sell quite well. Perhaps members of the Brady Campaign will even scoop up some extra copies.

Gillette_190
Gillette is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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