But he is not opposed to mandatory training for gun owners, and tighter regulation of firearms.
"We have over 75,000 firearms rules and regulations on the books, and approximately three of them are ever enforced," Metcalf explained, to some nervous laughter in the audience.
"As for federal laws, there are eight, and only two have been enforced in any significant way, ever. We can't afford and we don't have the personnel to enforce the laws that we have on the books right now. What good is it going to do to enact any others?"
"Do you think universal background checks make sense," Brownstein asked, "particularly that they be extended to gun shows?"
"This is an interesting one. What defines a background check? How far do you go with it?"
Metcalf mentions that when Illinois recently passed a law requiring a universal background check, the NRA actually supported it—because they also passed a concealed carry law. But don't call it compromise.
"Compromise is a bad word these days," Metcalf said. "Say conciliation. That's how you sit down with someone who has different principles, and you get something positive done."
A critical roll in Metcalf's termination, Brownstein noted, was that of pressure from the advertisers in Guns & Ammo.
"I believe that everyone I knew, even the people who worked for the companies responsible for the advertising pressure—because they are hearing [from customers], 'We'll never buy another one of your products if you continue to advertise in this magazine that has this anti-American traitor in it—but they all believe it," Metcalf said. "I can't tell you how many senior executives at firearms companies, over a beer when no one's watching, will say, 'You do know we realize that, of course, at least a third of our customers shouldn't be let within five miles of a gun.'"
"There are consumer publications for gun fans," Metcalf said. "There are consumer publications for motorcycle fans. [What would happen if you] start writing about whether or not there should be helmet laws in those magazines? Special interest publications are all over the place, and there is a certain set of limits where discussion is allowed."
Homogenous media communities with very different understandings of reality, where challenging prevailing assumptions is out of bounds, may be growing in popularity. "People are looking to media now to be a cheerleader for their point of view," Brownstein said. "There's less interest in dialogue over competing points of view than there is for affirmation of [the reader's] own point of view."
"In the 1970s and 80s when I wrote things that generated a substantial response, that would be about 10 letters," Metcalf said. "Generally speaking they weren't quite so outrageous [as the responses writers receive today]. My wife was reading some of the responses and said, 'I didn't know you could send emails written in crayon.'"