Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
P.O. Box 270143
Hartford, WI 53027
Phone (262) 673-9745
Fax (262) 673-9746
Interview in MP3 format
Aaron: This is Talkin’ to America. I’m your host, Aaron Zelman. Our guest today is Richard Lucibella, publisher of SWAT Magazine. Richard, it is a pleasure to have you here today.
Richard: Thank you Aaron. It is a pleasure to be with you.
Aaron: I have a couple of questions. I suppose we ought to start with some basic things. What does SWAT stand for?
Richard: As many of your listeners know, it originally stood for Special Weapons and Tactics. It dates back actually to the late 60s and is credited probably to LAPD for having created the first SWAT team, so in the context of the magazine, the magazine was started in the late 70s and used that title because it focused on special weapons and tactics of law enforcement.
Aaron: You talk about law enforcement, but is your magazine just geared towards those folks in law enforcement?
Richard: No, not at all. When we purchased it in 2001, SWAT was mostly a law enforcement title. That was not the direction we wanted to take, but we did have the title and the title is obviously known in the firearms community, and so we moved it from a law enforcement title only to more of a training and tactics which cuts across employment lines and certainly includes your average American firearms owner.
Aaron: SWAT Magazine is reaching out to a lot of different people within the firearms community. I suppose we could put it that way, but what does SWAT Magazine do to reach out to people beyond the firearms community? Let’s call it the freedom community at large.
Richard: We can’t really speak of a Second Amendment. We can’t really defend a right to keep and bear arms without recognizing that that right is really within the matrix of all the other rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, and I think is a real mistake when sometimes we focus exclusively on the Second Amendment and are not aware of the constant encroachments to search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment, to states’ rights in the Tenth Amendment. To that extent, we certainly try to alert our readers to potential dangers to all the Bill of Rights. We have a column written by Claire Wolfe entitled “Enemy at the Gate”. It is a monthly column and it is geared specifically toward the Bill of Rights, and that means all of them, including the Second.
Aaron: If you had to judge where we are at today in the war to preserve the right to protect one’s life using a firearm, are we winning or losing?
Richard: That is a good question and it is obviously a difficult question to answer Aaron. I think on the state levels we have made extraordinary gains – Concealed carry weapon laws, Castle doctrine laws, and the like. We have just made some real gains. We are seeing laws being passed in various states which prohibit the government from confiscating weapons during emergencies as we saw in New Orleans during Katrina. On the federal level, we did have the success of the sunset of the assault weapons ban, we did repeal it, it simply sunseted. Beyond that, I don’t think we are making any real strides on the federal level, and I think, if anything, we are probably going backward as we see the nibbling of other rights within the Bill of Rights as we see those shrinking on the Federal level with Supreme Court decisions, with executive action like that. Once you lose ground in any of the Bill of Rights, it paves the way to lose ground in all of them, so I would have to say the short answer is that on the state level I am encouraged and on the federal level not so much so.
Aaron: Do you think that our back sliding on the federal level has anything to do with what they call the war on terror or do you think it is an agenda for people to just want more power? They are just control freaks?
Richard: I think I need to respond to that very, very carefully because it is very easy in a glib response for our listeners to say, "oh, here’s another conspiracy theorist," but the short answer I think it has everything to do with the war on terror, our continued erosion of freedoms. I think it has everything to do with the war on drugs. I think it has everything to do with the fact that for some reason this country has been a continual state of “war” since the 1960s. That takes absolutely nothing away from our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters that are in harm’s way right now. As a personal aside, I support the war in Iraq, but that is not the issue. The issue is what is happening as a result of the domestic side, and on the domestic side we are seeing a very dangerous jingoism amongst American citizens. We see too much knee jerk, you know, "my country right or wrong". You can support this war on terror and still oppose individual elements of that war. You can have, for instance, wire tapping with FISA courts without having to support wire tapping without warrant at all. You can oppose other tools in the war on terror without having to fear that you are anti-American. As concern to the second part of your question, I think which is "are people just hungry for power?" I think that is a life cycle of a bureaucracy, of any bureaucracy. Every single bureaucracy takes on a life of its own and its life cycle is to grow itself through the need for more budgets. We see this in a number of federal agencies. They have need for greater budgets. They create situations that get a lot of public attention to explain that they don’t have enough money to do their job, or worse yet, they don’t have the legal tools to get their job done, and we see that from agencies to legislators unfortunately, just wanting to take on more power. The problem is that it is a zero sum gain. People don’t realize that freedom really is a zero sum gain. There is a fixed quantity of freedom when we started this country. We knew what freedom was. Look at it as a fixed bowl of freedom in the society. The only way you can grant greater freedom and greater power to an agency of the state or the federal government is by giving up some of your freedom. We see that march, it’s an inevitable march in many people’s minds. I am more optimistic than that, but it is a disturbing, disturbing trend.
Aaron: We talk about government agencies that want more power. You had an article in SWAT Magazine written by Claire Wolf about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and I suppose you were wondering before you ran the article if it was going to be a good idea or not for SWAT Magazine. What kind of feedback have you received?
Richard: The feedback on that particular piece has been quantitatively overwhelmingly in favor of Claire’s point of view. First of all, I want to congratulate you for the work you have done in BATFE compaign.
Aaron: It really isn’t just the work I have done. We have a lot of different people at JPFO that have pitched in and made all these things happen.
Richard: Credit due to all of them, but getting back to the specifics of that piece, I gave up a long time ago at looking at Claire’s column before they are published in the magazine. I honestly do not vet her columns. I look at them fresh when you look at them, when they are published. I thought it was an outstanding exposé. The response was overwhelmingly positive from the standpoint that she pointed out issues that many people don’t know that the ATF has no written standards for testing firearms. Many people don’t realize how little transparency there is in an ATF proceeding against an individual, and that is another problem that dovetails on your earlier questions, at a national level. There is too little transparency in terms of interactions that we have with law enforcement and we need to have greater transparency in order for freedom to thrive and flourish. I believe that she credited you and others with a push to have firearms in such litigation tested at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Was that your suggestion?
Aaron: It might have been the fellow that she was writing about, Len Savage, who is a firearms manufacturer and he would know more about that than I do.
Richard: To me that makes eminent sense. They have the ability, Aberdeen Proving Grounds has the ability and knowledge more important to actually look at weapons and determine what is a malfunctioning weapon versus what is a purpose built unlawful weapon. It is so often that I have seen it at the range myself, a weapon will malfunction and go full auto. According to the current law, that is not the weapon’s fault. It is your fault. You are in violation of some very serious laws at the moment that the spring breaks, that sear breaks, or whatever, and that is just an absurdity to have to depend on this star chamber-type of evaluation of the weapon that is going on with BATF versus having the examination videotaped or done by more competent sources such as in Aberdeen.
Aaron: So, most people were in favor of what Claire said. I was trying to get a handle on this.
Richard: Yes. Absolutely.
Aaron: You were kind enough to give us a PDF article, so it is on the JPFO website, so people can listen to you and then go read the article again. Let’s talk a little more about the magazine. Do you concentrate on specific types of guns or topics?
Richard: SWAT is kind of a strange vehicle. When we first purchased the magazine, I did a down and dirty market study, looking at what was available out there in terms of what I considered quality firearms magazines. There aren’t many, but when we look at magazines like American Handgunner, which is an outstanding magazine, Soldier of Fortune, and some of the others, I realized that the area that wasn’t really being covered well was training and tactics. Most firearms magazines are what I will call hardware magazines. They have great covers with lasers and bullets coming out of the barrels and great photography and they focus on the latest and greatest new smoke pole that has just been manufactured. I wanted to take it in a different direction and concentrate a bit more on the software, which is the training and tactics, the responsibility involved in owning a firearm. How to properly employ it, how to properly employ the accessories, so to that extent we offer a good deal more on the software side, on mindset training tactics, where to get the best training, what tactics are proven in any given circumstance, and then we also certainly do the hardware reviews of long guns, shotguns, handguns, edged weapons and the like. We try to throw in a balance of some humor and Louis Awerbuck's column and Brent Wheat’s column, those tend to a little bit lighter. Claire’s column ranges from frighteningly serious to outrageously humorous in terms of her pointing up the foibles of that capital E enemy at the gate of our American freedoms, so from that standpoint, we like to say that we offer more and I think we do. I think we are more well rounded than most firearms books, and we certainly offer more in terms of the training and tactics end of the spectrum.
Aaron: This is Talkin’ to America. Our guest today is Richard Lucibella. He is publisher of SWAT Magazine. Rich, getting back to the articles that you are running, something like Claire’s article as example, which is critical of a government agency, you know when you are around people who are in law enforcement when they are speaking after hours and they are off the record, do they ever have anything to say that is hopeful for the average American, that there is also some distrust of the federal government.
Richard: I would say, yes. I would say in fact overwhelmingly. Law enforcement officers that I talk to are well aware of the dangers of federalization. They are well aware that the tools that they want to do their job come at a cost of freedoms and the individual officers I talked to quite honestly walk that tightrope very, very well. They recognize that a new law which may make a Hibbel law for mandatory identification may make their job a bit easier, but it is at the expense of their wife and kids' freedoms and they are troubled by that and they are thoughtful about it. It is when we get to the agency level I think that we have the biggest problem because agencies have no part, they have no consequence. It is a non-human life form, if you will, and that is where we get into trouble is with the agencies and sometimes with the desk jockies.
Aaron: You raise a fascinating point here. How do you suppose this non-human life form came to be in America? We are supposed to be the land of the free.
Richard: It is absolutely a factor of bureaucracy, whether it be a corporate bureaucracy, a military bureaucracy, any organization takes on a life form of itself and seeks to propagate and grow itself. That is the nature of every governmental agency since the history of mankind. I don’t know if there is some mystical law that kind of grants at their life form powers but I think that it is fair to compare it to a life form. There isn’t a single governmental agency that we can think of that was ever reigned in or dismantled without enormous human energy put into reigning it in and dismantling it. When left alone, they will simply grow and grow. Part of that quite honestly is our fault. A large part of that is our fault as citizens and voters, because we continue to look to be protected, we continue to look at our pet issues and we have a tendency to want everybody to comply with our standards of behavior on our pet issues, but then we don’t realize when we do that that also grants other special interest groups the right to demand that we comply with standards of behaviors on their issues. Whether it be what you may say in public, whether or not you may object to a police action without recrimination, whether or not you can own a firearm or carry a firearm, and so everybody has their hand in the pot to try to get everybody else to kind of conform to their way of life and that is what grants these bureaucracies I believe. This is what grants these bureaucracies their life force.
Aaron: I have often thought Rich that what we have to do is bring back America to America and by that I mean bring back a Bill of Rights culture so that every single existing piece of legislation or proposed legislation that violates the Bill of Rights is null and void and I think that would do away with a lot of agencies.
Richard: You are preaching to the choir on that one. I am a libertarian with a small “l”. I think that getting back to a simpler set of laws whereby Americans know when they are engaging in an illegal activity. Today you don’t even know whether or not the activity that you are involved in may violate some law, and I am sure we all violate laws regularly and unknowingly. When you look at the alphabet soup of agencies that have regulations over our daily activity, there is virtually no activity that we engage in that isn’t somehow regulated, but getting back to the nub of your point, a test, a Bill of Rights test, for every single law that is passed in this country is absolutely the way to go. Unfortunately, if we instituted such a test and we did it retroactively, we would probably cut the federal code down by about 92-95% because many of the laws on the books and much of the bureaucracy on the books is a violation or encroachment of certain of the Bill of Rights and I know that sounds to a lot like an extremist position and I guess that maybe it is an extremist position if loving freedom and really cherishing the American ideal and American way of life at that, and if that is considered extremist than I guess I fall into that category. I know you do.
Aaron: (Laughter). No doubt about that.
Well let’s get back to the magazine for a moment. You know over the years people have watched a lot of gun-oriented magazines offer test reviews and gee wiz, that gun always is fantastic in the magazine. I wonder what kind of pressure you get from advertisers to print glowing reviews.
Richard: Believe it or not, very little Aaron. At this point very little. When I purchased SWAT Magazine in 2001, I flew out to Arizona and met with the editor, Denny Hanson, got a sense of who he was and I said "I will tell you what. We are going to do this as a social experiment. Let’s see if we can have a gun magazine out there that really tells it like it is, doesn’t kiss up to advertisers, and let’s see if advertisers and subscribers will buy it, and advertising is naturally a large part of our ability to continue our revenues." We took on that attitude and learned some lessons about it. We lost one or two major advertisers because we absolutely panned their weapons. I can think of one shotgun in particular that was about to be used in Afghanistan and we reviewed it and the review did not come out well and we printed that and we lost that advertiser. They still won’t speak to me, and to an extent, they are probably right. It is one thing to tell it like it is, I guess I didn’t need to feature them prominently on the cover in an article that was most unflattering inside. I learned that lesson. Since then, we have really gained a reputation. We are very seldom asked, "hey, listen, can we see a copy of the review before it is printed". We always refuse, but it very seldom comes up. I can speak of at least three manufacturers that we approached and said "listen, we have a review of your handgun or your rifle and the review is an honest review but we have a couple major problems with it and we are going to print it but the reason we are approaching you is that we have a great shot for the cover and we will give you the choice. If you don’t want it on the cover, we won’t put it there". In all three cases, those potential advertisers or advertisers, they were all gun manufacturers, said "well, we know how you do things, we know you are going to be honest about it, put it on the cover, we will take our chances." And so the industry doesn’t have to be quite as whorish as many think that it is. In SWAT’s case, if you go through any issue and you look at who we are covering in editorial and try to compare that to the list of advertisers, you are going to find a real disconnect there because it is disconnected. We very much separate advertising from editorial. Let the chips fall where they may and you will seldom see the latest, greatest, you have to have this firearm review in SWAT magazine.
Aaron: A couple of final questions for you. Do you folks have a website?
Aaron: What can people expect to find on that site?
Richard: The site will show our current issue, complete table of contents, introductory description for each of the features in that issue, and in all back issues. You can search the website for a term you may be looking for or to see whether or not we covered a certain firearm in the past. You can also subscribe. Naturally we have a shopping area where you can buy back issues in PDF or printed form, and you can renew your subscription to the magazine, and we also offer some freebies. For every issue that we have published since July of 2001, you can download in PDF format a free sample of that issue called SWAT Snapshots, which is maybe eight or ten pages, twelve to fifteen pages of editorial from that issue, full text articles, trying to give you a sample of what we are about in each issue.
Aaron: Where does one find SWAT Magazine if they don’t have a subscription?
Richard: If you don’t have a subscription, we have good coverage in Barnes and Noble, Books A Million. We are now in 7-11s, the majority of the 7-11s nationwide. We can be a little bit hard to find as it is the nature of regrowing a title that was pretty much dormant five years ago, regrowing a title into new outlets is a painstaking and slow progress. We have done very well at all. We are in 4 times the number of outlets we were just two years ago and continue to grow, but generally those are the best places. Your bookstores, your newsstands, 7-11s.
Aaron: If someone wants to subscribe, do you have a number they can call?
Richard: 1-800-673-4595. Subscriptions kind of falls where it is going to fall just as it has grown real, real well. I am very grateful for the response that gun owners have given the magazine. We have done well.
Aaron: What is the website again?
Richard: That is www.swatmag.com
Aaron: Just to show you are a nice guy, are there any other magazines that you would recommend that people read?
Richard: Yes. American Handgunner I already mentioned. I think they are fabulous. I think that the artwork of Ichiro Nagata alone is worth the price of admission, but more than that, Huntington’s ability to walk the fine line that we walk also between honest review and the need to pay the bills is great. Colonel Bob Brown, Soldier of Fortune, remains just an icon in print magazines in this area. Bob and I are close friends. He has been very much a mentor to me the first couple of years since I took over the book and I think that is a phenomenal book.
Aaron: Rich, I want to thank you for being with us today. This has been Talkin’ to America. Our guest today has been Richard Lucibella, publisher of SWAT Magazine. I am your host, Aaron Zelman. I would like to remind you that if you won’t defend your rights, don’t complain when you lose them.
Opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of JPFO.org or its members. Talkin’ to America is a production of JPFO.org.