'Terrorist' Remark Puts Outdoorsman's Career in Jeopardy
Saturday, February 24, 2007
SEATTLE -- Modern hunters rarely become more famous than Jim Zumbo. A mustachioed, barrel-chested outdoors entrepreneur who lives in a log cabin near Yellowstone National Park, he has spent much of his life writing for prominent outdoors magazines, delivering lectures across the country and starring in cable TV shows about big-game hunting in the West.
Zumbo's fame, however, has turned to black-bordered infamy within America's gun culture -- and his multimedia success has come undone. It all happened in the past week, after he publicly criticized the use of military-style assault rifles by hunters, especially those gunning for prairie dogs.
"Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity," Zumbo wrote in his blog on the Outdoor Life Web site. The Feb. 16 posting has since been taken down. "As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. . . . I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles."
The reaction -- from tens of thousands of owners of assault rifles across the country, from media and manufacturers rooted in the gun business, and from the National Rifle Association -- has been swift, severe and unforgiving. Despite a profuse public apology and a vow to go hunting soon with an assault weapon, Zumbo's career appears to be over.
His top-rated weekly TV program on the Outdoor Channel, his longtime career with Outdoor Life magazine and his corporate ties to the biggest names in gunmaking, including Remington Arms Co., have been terminated or are on the ropes.
The NRA on Thursday pointed to the collapse of Zumbo's career as an example of what can happen to anyone, including a "fellow gun owner," who challenges the right of Americans to own or hunt with assault-style firearms.
From his home near Cody, Wyo., Zumbo declined repeated telephone requests for comment. He is a 40-year NRA member and has appeared with NRA officials in 70 cities, according to his Web site.
In announcing that it was suspending its professional ties with Zumbo, the NRA -- a well-financed gun lobby that for decades has fought attempts to regulate assault weapons -- noted that the new Congress should pay careful attention to the outdoors writer's fate.
"Our folks fully understand that their rights are at stake," the NRA statement said. It warned that the "grassroots" passion that brought down Zumbo shows that millions of people would "resist with an immense singular political will any attempts to create a new ban on semi-automatic firearms."
Some outdoors writers drew a different lesson from Zumbo's horrible week.
"This shows the zealousness of gun owners to the point of actual foolishness," said Pat Wray, a freelance outdoors writer in Corvallis, Ore., and author of "A Chukar Hunter's Companion."
Wray said that what happened to Zumbo is a case study in how the NRA has trained members to attack their perceived enemies without mercy.