[Ed: In April 2019, we published The Twilight Zone, which described the reactions a gun club had in addressing Covid-19 risks with its members. DRGO contributing writer and then club member Bob Kingsley wrote that article and now re-visits what has happened since. We would of course welcome a response from the unnamed club.]
Last April, the gun club I had been a member of for 20 years closed abruptly after having a panic attack related to the Covid-19 virus. The club had a 24/7 access system and members could use the facility whenever it was convenient. While it would have been understandable to cancel group activities, there was no reason individuals couldn’t have continued to using the facility while observing virus protocols. Even President Trump had declared shooting ranges to be “essential.” No matter, my club’s “leadership” made the decision to close without input from the membership. (The story of how this originally unfolded here.)
So here we are nine months later with an update on what has happened since.
Inexplicably, the club re-opened in fits and starts in the summer of 2019 and even allowed leagues, unwisely encouraging exactly the kind of activity that involves close contact. Why would this be OK when individuals using the facility one or two at a time were banned? Oh, but the league shooters pay additional fees. Hard to imagine that profit should take precedence over members’ safety, but bills have to be paid, right?
September is the renewal month for all club members. For the twentieth year in a row, I dutifully and promptly paid my membership renewal fee. About a week later, I received a certified letter from the club. Club leadership had voted not to renew my membership.
After protesting to the point of involving my attorney, the club not only refused to relent and accept my renewal, they doubled down
n by assailing my character, writing that I had, “… not abided by the bylaws which prohibit disparaging comments to the Binghamton Rifle Club, the Executive Committee and the members at large.” They furthermore wrote, “…we have seen other posts of Mr. Kingsley’s on his Facebook page and other media sites and find some of them offensive, misogynistic and not in character of a responsible gun owner.”
After long deliberation, I ended my two decades’ relationship with the club with this letter:
To the members of the Executive Committee:
In response to your letter of 12-03-20 I offer the following opinions.
My comments of 03-22-20 were prophetic. I was in the wrong club.
I am sickened by. . . the pettiness [of] small-minded people [who] profess to rally around the celebration of our 2nd Amendment while simultaneously employing the tools of tyranny, censorship and expulsion as a cover for their own lack of fortitude.
A 15-lane shooting range with 24/7 member access could have easily conformed to the most stringent of Covid protocols. The President of the United States even singled out shooting ranges as essential. Yet instead of entrusting members to decide our own individual level of comfort in either using or not using the facility, you decided unilaterally for clos[ure]. When I began asking questions, “leadership” stopped responding and when I took my concerns to the club’s Facebook page, that same leadership took the posts down and censored me from further communications.
Instead of demonstrating real leadership, you put your finger to the wind, checked to see what other clubs were doing and then comforted by the safety of group-think, you rationalized your decision by proclaiming that everyone else is doing the same thing.
That’s called “leading from behind.”
Leadership censored me from the club Facebook page because you were afraid that the membership would agree with my position. If any group of people ought to be particularly insulted by censorship, it would be those who cherish our 2nd Amendment.
It is truly a sad day in America when the leadership of a rifle club in existence for over 100 years believes it is OK to use censorship and expulsion in order to squelch debate with a 20 year member. Your unilateral and draconian measures removed decision making from the members because you didn’t believe we were smart enough to decide for ourselves. I happily distance myself from such a group of petty tyrants who are the very antithesis of the patriots that envisioned the necessity of a 2nd Amendment in the first place.
Not the way I would have preferred this relationship to end, but hey, things don’t stay the same forever.
What I never would have guessed is that a group of gun owners would so willingly embrace censorship, group think, oppressiveness and bullying against someone simply because they disagree. Tactics that are routinely used to vilify and attack gun owners are apparently OK to be used by gun owners against gun owners when they have the tyranny of of official positions to wield.
I for one have no desire to be a member of any organization that inflicts “progressive” cancel culture. I didn’t imagine such a thing could happen among gun owners, but in today’s America I guess nothing is a surprise. God help us.
—Bob Kingsley is a private investigator and writer from New York. He is a Life Member of the NRA, a certified handgun instructor and an educator for the program, “Refuse to be a Victim.” He blogs at BobKingsley.com.