For decades Guns & Ammo magazine published writings from well-known bigot Jeff Cooper, but recently fired contributing editor Dick Metcalf after he published a column suggesting that the Second Amendment right -- like all rights -- is subject to some regulation.
Cooper, a celebrated commentator at the magazine from 1958 to 2004, used racial slurs, defended the practice of slavery, claimed that "[e]quality is biologically impossible," and suggested that Africans from South Africa's Gauteng province should be called "Oranggautengs" in a popular gun newsletter he published while employed by Guns & Ammo.
Controversy erupted earlier this month after Metcalf authored a column for the December edition of Guns & Ammo that stated, "[W]ay too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be."
After outcry from readers -- and as Mother Jones notes, pressure from gun manufacturers -- Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette announced that Metcalf would no longer write for the firearm publication. Bequette also offered readers "a personal apology," writing that he "made a mistake by publishing the column," before turning in his own resignation.
Media touted the incident as evidence of what happens when any dissent from an absolutist view of the Second Amendment is professed in the gun rights community. Indeed, Metcalf's firing follows a string of similar controversies.
Still, in a November 8 letter to Outdoor Wire commenting on his firing, Metcalf expressed a degree of surprise, citing the fact that Guns & Ammo published "Cooper's Corner" between 1986 and 2002, a column that was "intentionally designed to address controversial issues":
From its inception as "Cooper's Corner" in 1986 the back page column in Guns & Ammo has been intentionally designed to address controversial issues, and to invite reader response. By that standard, the December edition certainly succeeded--some might say, too well. But our intention was to provoke a debate, not to incite a riot (which is illegal under laws regulating the 1st Amendment).
It would be an understatement to say that Cooper's Corner or its author -- longtime NRA board member Jeff Cooper -- invited controversy. Cooper -- an unabashed racist, misogynist, Islamophobe, and homophobe -- was also the publisher of the popular newsletter Jeff Cooper's Commentaries where he often used racial slurs and suggested ending slavery in the United States may have been "a mistake."
Still Cooper, an innovator in modern shooting technique, remains a celebrated figure in the gun rights movement. As Guns & Ammo noted in a 2007 obituary [sic throughout], "Col. Cooper was one of the original Guns & Ammo writers -- from the very first issue published in the summer of 1958, in fact. 'Cooper's Corner,' was one of the magazine's most popular and features." He last wrote for Guns & Ammo in 2004. The NRA named a shooting range after Cooper at its New Mexico Whittington Center and lists him among the NRA's "remarkable leaders" on its website.
While Cooper's most inflammatory remarks were saved for his newsletter, his views in Guns & Ammo were certainly more controversial than Metcalf's. For example, in an April 1991 column he wrote, "[T]he consensus is that no more than five to ten people in a hundred who die by gunfire in Los Angeles are any loss to society. These people fight small wars amongst themselves. It would seem a valid social service to keep them well-supplied with ammunition."
While he was a high profile writer for Guns & Ammo, Cooper was also the publisher of a racial-slur-heavy newsletter popular in the gun rights community that frequently contained his bigoted observations. Among the lowlights published while he was also an employee of Guns & Ammo:
- "But the ragheads still insist that we infidels are the accursed of God, and they seek to flaunt this without any prospect for amelioration. We see these people complaining when they are 'profiled' while making every effort to make such profiling obvious. If a raghead does not wish to be identified as a raghead, there would seem to be no reason for him to speak like a raghead, act like a raghead, and dress like a raghead. The best way for him to avoid being identified as a raghead would be to stay back where he came from." (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, October 2002)
- "Mr. Jefferson is quoted around the inside of his monument at Washington as standing foursquare and forever against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. As he declaimed, and as I hope we all agree, the State may justifiably control our actions − but never our thoughts. Sorry, Mr. Jefferson, but all men are not created equal. ('All ya gotta do is look.')" (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, October 2002)
- "Colonialism has a bad reputation in the modern context, but Colonial Africa was a far better place for both black and white before the colonists gave up." (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, November 2000)
- "We reflect, in this period of racist agitation, that slavery has been the normal condition of mankind for most of history. What do you do with the losers? You either kill them outright or put them to work. If you pen them up you have to feed them, and you have enough trouble feeding yourself. Despite this a large number of semi−literate types in the States seem to think of slavery as a unique invention of the southern states of the US over a period of a few generations." (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, July 2000)
- "Equality is biologically impossible, and liberty is only obtainable in homogeneous populations very thinly spread." (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, December 1999)
- "It is interesting to infer that Bill Clinton invented slavery − for which he is being called upon to apologize. If we antedate Bill somewhat, we discover that the only thing the United States government ever did about slavery was to abolish it. Perhaps that was a mistake, but I do not feel inclined to apologize for it. As Aristotle tells us, slavery is the normal condition of much of mankind, and has been a feature of all civilizations from the Bronze Age downward. Perhaps, while we are at it, we should apologize for gravity. That certainly causes a lot of trouble." (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, June 1997)
- "For those who are proud of their lifetime shooting record, we learn of an old geezer, aged 96, who at the end of his life in the Transvaal boasted that he had taken 341 elephants, 187 lions, 40 kaffirs [a racial slur equivalent to the N-word in South Africa] and two Englishmen. It will take some doing to top that." (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, September 1996)
- "The decay of the late, great country of South Africa is beginning to become apparent. The name of the Transvaal has been officially changed to "Gauteng." (One of our friends has suggested that in view of this its inhabitants in the future should be referred to as Oranggautengs.)" (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, February 1995)
Cooper may have been a racist, but he did not commit Guns & Ammo's apparent cardinal sin of running afoul of gun manufacturers. As Mother Jones highlighted, Metcalf mentioned in his Outdoor Wire letter that Guns & Ammo parent company IMO "was contacted by two major firearms industry manufacturers, stating that they would do no further business with IMO if it continued with its present personnel structure" shortly before he was fired.
It is no surprise that the gun industry pushes gun publications to adopt extreme positions against firearm regulation, as manufacturers already engage in a similar tactic by exerting control over the NRA through massive donations. As a recent Violence Policy Center report noted, since 2005 the gun industry has given the NRA between $19.3 million and $60.2 million including eight gun industry partners who have given the NRA $1 million or more.