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Ready?  Aim!  Fire!


There's an old saying that "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." But there is a greater fury. It is unleashed by American hunters when they feel they and their way of life are questioned. The latest example may have cost one of their hunting buddies his career.

Jim Zumbo, a longtime hunter, outdoors writer, and host of cable -TV hunting shows, slid a comment into his Web log that touched off a firestorm. He wrote that military-style assault rifles, which can spray bullets at their targets and are favored by some hunters as efficient weapons against animal pests, have no place in what he called "our hunting fraternity." But the real explosion ensued when he added, "As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world . . . I'll go so far as to call them -- [that is, assault rifles] -- 'terrorist' rifles."

Hunters by the thousands went ballistic. How dare he compare them with terrorists? They smelled a conspiracy to divide gun owners between those who approve of using assault weapons and those who don't. And they reminded Mr. Zumbo, whom they called "Dumbo," of the amended U.S. Constitution's guarantee of the right to bear arms. Or as one blogger put it . . . "the right to bear arms, regardless of type."

Jim Zumbo issued an abject apology.

But it was too late. Several companies, including the Remington firearms firm and Outdoor Life magazine, quickly severed all ties to him.

The bombastic online debate about hunters' rights, free speech, and the merits of killing animals with assault weapons rages on. The lesson is not lost on other public figures, including politicians: criticize hunters and expect a political storm that could sink your career.

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