As with many of his Fourth Estate colleagues these days, magazine editor Jim Bequette wanted to "generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights."
So in the latest edition he published a commentary by a regular contributor, who wrote in support of limited regulations on firearms. It was no small attempt at reason given that he works for Guns & Ammo magazine — or used to.
"Way too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement," wrote long-time contributing editor Dick Metcalf. "The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be."
Metcalf, for example, noted that free speech is regulated. "You cannot falsely and deliberately shout, 'fire!' in a crowded theater," he said.
Freedom of religion is also regulated. "A church cannot practice human sacrifice," he said.
Even freedom of assembly is regulated. "People who don't like you can't gather an 'anti-you' demonstration on your front lawn without your permission," he wrote.
Overall, he put forward what should have been grist for the America's ever-grinding debate mill. Unfortunately, in exchange for their food for thought, they got the shaft.
They were vilified by enraged readers who said the mere suggestion that any regulation is tolerable brought into question Guns & Ammo's commitment to the Second Amendment.
"Publishing Metcalf's back page read was like throwing a bucket of blood in shark infested waters, especially here in California," wrote one reader, according to CNN. "We are one step away from confiscation here as it is ..."
As a result, Metcalf was fired, Bequette apologized to readers, and when that wasn't enough, Bequette resigned on Wednesday, effective immediately.
In apologizing, the editor noted the magazine had a long-standing tradition of standing by the Second Amendment: "In publishing Metcalf's column, I was untrue to that tradition, and for that I apologize."
However, the only tradition that seems to have been upheld is that of zero tolerance for any idea that strays from a mindless norm — that words and questions concerning limitations to Second Amendment zealotry are dangerous. It's a tradition where freedom of speech, apparently, is limited to those who believe California is "one step away from confiscation" and who fear other things that go bump in the night.
Bequette said he had hoped for a healthy exchange of ideas. Instead it was made clear that there is nothing healthy about our nation's debate about gun violence, even as we come up on the one-year anniversary of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn. which claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six school employees. And another year passes, with little having changed.
Wrote Metcalf after being sacked, "If a respected editor can be forced to resign and a controversial writer's voice be shut down by a one-sided social-media and Internet outcry, virtually overnight, simply because they dared to open a discussion or ask questions about a politically sensitive issue .<TH>.<TH>. then I fear for the future of our industry, and for our cause."
And for our country.