The Final Word, RECOIL Magazine's Position Statement and Life Lessons - ITS Tactical
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The Final Word, RECOIL Magazine’s Position Statement and Life Lessons

By Bryan Black

It’s with disappointment that I write this post today, but with a strong stance on what ITS Tactical will tolerate from who we choose to do business with. Each person reading this is a part of the decisions I make as a business owner, many of you investing your hard earned money in the success of my company through product purchases and membership.

I say this over and over again, but your support means a lot. This is why I will always continue to stand up for what I believe in personally and that stance WILL carry over to ITS Tactical, because at the end of the day I have the final say in everything that goes on here and am also ultimately responsible for my actions and the actions of my employees.

Some people in business don’t feel this way, they throw their employees under the bus, they throw other companies under the bus and they pass blame onto others. One of the first lessons I learned in life and again while serving in the Navy, is that making mistakes happens and everyone “should” learn from their mistakes. It’s how we grow personally and in my situation, in business.

The first step in learning from your mistakes is taking ownership of your mistake. Coming right out and saying “I screwed up, it’s my fault and only my fault. I have no one else to blame but myself.” If you make mistakes and don’t immediately own up to them, highlight that last quote and print it out.

Next you tell everyone how you’ll fix your mistake, while giving credit where it’s due and apologizing to those affected. “I appreciate you pointing out my mistake, I apologize with how it’s affected you. Here’s how I’m going to fix it, learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”  Again, taking ownership of how you’ll move forward. This isn’t something you even have to come up with on the spot. Take some time, clear your thoughts and figure out how to best attack the problem at hand. Unlike the military which commonly demands answers immediately, the civilian world will generally give you some time to sort yourself out. Even in a situation I can remember in the Navy, I had time while being surf tortured to think about how I’d correct a mistake I’d made.

I’d like to now apply these concepts we’ve just talked about to the issue at hand with RECOIL Magazine. As you may remember, a statement published in RECOIL Magazine’s newest issue by editor Jerry Tsai set the internet ablaze this past weekend. A comment posted to RECOIL’s Facebook Page last Saturday afternoon (September 8th) by a fan, quoted the printed statement and demanded an explanation. Here’s the paragraph for those of you that may be unfamiliar with what’s happened thus far.

RECOIL Magazine Article, Volume 1, Issue 4: Heckler & Koch MP7A1 (Page 35)

“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands. It comes with semi-automatic and full-auto firing modes only. Its overall size places it between a handgun and submachine gun. Its assault rifle capabilities and small size make this a serious weapon that should not be taken lightly.”

That same day, Mr. Tsai personally replied on that same Facebook post with an explanation of his position, which did not help matters whatsoever in the eyes of their Facebook fans. Here’s that statement, which I copied before it was deleted by RECOIL along with the original fan post calling the original article into question.

RECOIL Facebook reply by Jerry Tsai on September 8, 2012

As readers of RECOIL, we all agree that we love bad-ass hardware, there’s no question about that. I believe that in a perfect world, all of us should have access to every kind of gadget that we desire. Believe me, being a civvie myself, I’d love to be able to get my hands on an MP7A1 of my own regardless of its stated purpose, but unfortunately the reality is that it isn’t available to us. As a fellow enthusiast, I know how frustrating it is to want something only to be denied it.

Its manufacturer has not made the gun available to the general public and when we asked if it would ever come to the commercial market, they replied that it is strictly a military and law enforcement weapon, adding that there are no sporting applications for it. Is it wrong that HK decided against selling a full-auto pocket sized machine gun that can penetrate armor from hundreds of yards away? It’s their decision to make and their decision they have to live with not mine nor anybody else’s.

 I accepted their answer for what it was out of respect for those serving in uniform.

I believe that we as gun enthusiasts should respect our brothers in law enforcement, agency work and the military and also keep them out of harms way. Like HK, I wouldn’t want to see one of these slip into the wrong hands either. Whether or not you agree with this is fine. I am compelled to explain a point that I was trying to make that may have not been clear.

At this point, ITS Tactical, along with many of our friends in the industry, issued public statements with our position regarding the turmoil created by Mr. Tsai’s original published statement and his follow-up on the RECOIL Facebook Page. The following companies stated that they’d pull their advertising in RECOIL.  Silencerco,  SWR Manufacturing,  Panteao Productions,  ITS Tactical,  Haley Strategic Partners,  Truly Tactical,  Magpul Industries,  Bravo Company USA,  Surefire,  DSG Arms,  TNVC,  Vortex Optics,  Advanced Armament Corp.,  ITW Military Products,  Mission First Tactical,  Ares Armor. Definitely not a list to take lightly as a “Gun Lifestyle” magazine that RECOIL markets themselves as. List provided via Soldier Systems.

ITS Tactical is also a reseller of RECOIL Magazine here in the ITS Store and we clarified that we’d no longer be carrying RECOIL. You can read our official statement in it’s entirety here  (issued September 9th) and the photo to the right (click to enlarge) is the letter I hand-signed to go out with each copy of RECOIL Magazine that we’ve sold since releasing it on Friday the 7th. As I stated in the comments of our official statement post, we have no way of recouping the financial loss on the magazines due to Mr. Tsai’s comment, thus we’re still including the letter in each copy we’re still selling until they’re gone (hopefully.)

We’ve actually had many supporters of ITS Tactical purchase this current issue of RECOIL from our online store and leave notes in their order that they’re just purchasing it to help us clear our inventory, or to throw out the magazine and just send them the hand-signed letter. I can’t tell you how this makes me feel as a business owner to see this kind of support from our readership! It’s truly humbling.

At this point we all waited to hear of an official statement by RECOIL Magazine, or in my case, I wanted to hear from RECOIL’s parent company,  Source Interlink Media.  The following day, September 10th, the following official statement of RECOIL Magazine, written by Jerry Tsai, was issued as a post here on their website.

RECOIL Magazine Official Statement by Jerry Tsai on September 10, 2012

I’d like to address the comments regarding what I wrote in the MP7A1 article in RECOIL issue 4. First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any offense that I have caused with the article. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand the outrage, and I am greatly saddened that it was initiated by my words. Especially since, I am an unwavering supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights. I’ve chosen to spend a significant part of both my personnel and professional life immersed in this enthusiasm, so to have my support of individuals’ rights called into doubt is extremely unfortunate. With that said, I retract what I wrote in the offending paragraph within this article. It should have had been presented with more clarity.

In the article, I stated some information that was passed on to me about why the gun is not available for civilian purchase. By no means did I intend to imply that civilians are not responsible, nor do we lack the judgment to own such weapons, if I believed anything approaching this, clearly I would lead a much different life. I also mentioned in the article that the gun had no sporting purpose. This again, was information passed on to me and reported in the article without the necessary additional context. I believe everything published in RECOIL up to this point (other than this story), demonstrates we clearly understand and completely agree that guns do not need to have a sporting purpose in order for them to be rightfully available to civilians. In retrospect, I should have presented this information in a clearer manner. Although I can understand the manufacturer’s stance on the subject, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.

Again, I acknowledge the mistakes I made and for them I am truly sorry.

After I read this statement, I immediately became more disappointed, as Mr. Tsai’s position clearly wavered like a flag in a storm. In his original two statements he still aligned himself with HK’s position, yet in the closing of this now official RECOIL statement, he states that he doesn’t agree with it.

One of the first things I learned in my college Journalism classes (I have a Journalism minor,) was to never let a source’s words become your own. Mr. Tsai’s initial article is a clear example of what can happen when you allow this. He’s stated that those were HK’s words he was putting into his own and as he put it, “taking their word for it.”

Up to this point in the article, we still don’t have an “official” statement from Source Interlink Media and I learned that HK had now released their official stance regarding the article.

Heckler & Koch USA Statement on September 12, 2012 via the HK Pro Shooting Team Facebook Page

Some readers have misinterpreted a recent feature story in RECOIL magazine as a reflection of HK policy. Heckler & Koch has a long presence in the US civilian market and throughout that time has been an ardent and passionate supporter of the Second Amendment and the American civilian shooter. This will always be the case. The contents, opinions, and statements expressed in that feature story are those of the writer, not Heckler and Koch’s. Additionally, the writer and RECOIL magazine have issued a clarification and apology for the ill-chosen words used in the story.

The HK MP7A1 4.6 mm Personal Defense Weapon mentioned in the story is a selective-fire product (capable of “full automatic” fire) and is currently restricted to military and law enforcement agencies by BATF. HK-USA has previously researched introducing similar commercial products, chambered in 4.6 mm, but it was determined that the final product would not have enough appeal or be legally feasible.Heckler & Koch USA

So now we have HK not owning up to any mistake on their part and referencing RECOIL Magazine’s apology by Jerry Tsai for more clarification. Guess what, they’re referring everyone to the statement where Mr. Tsai says that he was again just stating what was passed onto him. He doesn’t “exactly” say it was from HK, but who else was it from?

Recap So Far

Let me break it down at this point in the article. Mr. Tsai publishes an article saying that the HK MP7A1 has no sporting applications and in the same article an HK representative is quoted as saying that it isn’t a gun we want in the wrong slimy hands. If you already don’t understand the issue with this, click here for further explanation.

Now Mr. Tsai has the opportunity to follow the steps I presented to you in the beginning of the article. Come out and say  “I screwed up, it’s my fault and only my fault. I have no one else to blame but myself.”  “I appreciate you pointing out my mistake, here’s how I’m going to fix it, learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Does he do this? Go back and read it for yourself. No he doesn’t in my opinion, he just digs himself into a deeper hole. Now he issues the official statement on RECOIL’s Website. Only now does he take ownership of his comments and stop pushing blame on HK. This is good. He even says that with the benefit of hindsight he understands the outrage as a result of his words and goes on to defend his strong Second Amendment beliefs. He retracts what he wrote and says it should have been presented with more clarity. Good again. WAIT. He now shifts the blame back to (what is understood to be) HK when he states that it was all information passed to him. Now to top it off, he wavers from his original position and states that he doesn’t agree with the manufacturer’s (HK) stance.

Where is the apology to the advertisers and their lost investment? Where is the apology to the resellers of the magazine (like us) for their lost investment in copies that may never sell? That aside, where is the statement on how he’s going to fix what he created? Where does he state that he’s going to ensure it doesn’t happen again? Up to this point he hasn’t made me, as an advertiser, want to continue a relationship with his publication. Since I’ve yet to hear the response from Source Interlink Media at this point, I’m holding out for slight hope that this can still be fixed and one of the best publications to come to this industry can gain back the supporters and advertisers they’ve lost.

Last night I finally heard back from my contact at Source Interlink Media that we went through to purchase advertising. My contacted stated that they’d spoken with the upper management and asked to forward me RECOIL’s position statement from Advertising Associate Publisher Danny Chang and I took this as the final word from Source Interlink Media on the issue at hand, as my contact said there was nothing else they could add.

Official Source Interlink Media Position, emailed September 12, 2012

RECOIL Magazines Position:

In light of some of the comments and complaints made about a paragraph in a recent article about the Heckler & Koch MP7A1, Recoil wishes to make the following points clear:

It is simply not credible for anyone to question Recoil’s support for, and commitment to, the Second Amendment. Recoil is first and foremost  a gun lifestyle magazine, aimed at the modern shooting enthusiast.

The opinions in the paragraph in question accurately reflected those of the manufacturer, and should have been reported as direct quotes. Recoil acknowledges the way the paragraph was written has caused unnecessary confusion.

Jerry Tsai, a passionate gun enthusiast and the visionary behind Recoil magazine, will remain as editor of Recoil.

We thank you for your support and understanding.

This, dear readers, is the end of the road. In their official position, do they take ownership? Nope, again they shift the blame to HK. Even though earlier that day HK has passed the buck back to RECOIL. They’ve now taken the hardline stance that we has readers of RECOIL, have no right to question them about their Second Amendment support. This is the official statement and they’re not apologizing in any way other than to say that they realize what Mr. Tsai wrote has caused unnecessary confusion?

As I suspected, Jerry Tsai is the one running the show at RECOIL and the man with the vision. Without him it would crumble and it would be a bad business decision to let it crumble. I’m sure Source Interlink Media and their investors have too much on the line to allow RECOIL to implode. That’s not an option for them and an understandable one. I get it.

I also get that the core values of ITS Tactical, which happen to be my core values as well, can not allow me to continue in a business relationship with them. With never receiving a clear answer on the ownership of the mistake, how can I expect Mr. Tsai, RECOIL Magazine or Source Interlink Media to take responsibility for future mistakes that will happen.  They will happen, just like they will to me personally and with ITS Tactical.

However, you can be certain that when they do, I’ll be right there doing exactly what I said Mr. Tsai should have done from the beginning. Taking sole responsibility for the mistake, thanking anyone who helped bring it to my attention, apologizing to anyone affected by my actions, making it right, learning from my mistake and describing exactly what I’m going to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

I’m genuinely saddened with everything that’s happened up to this point and it’s hard for me to give up a great publication that I looked forward to reading. My principles simply don’t allow for anything else based on what I’ve heard from each end involved in this debacle. I’ve joked that this would make a hell of a case study for a college public relations class, especially because it seems that  RECOIL and Source Interlink Media are ignoring the power of social media and more specifically in this case, Facebook. It’s become a legitimate business tool that can’t be ignored by any business these days. As RECOIL learned the hard way, it’s where the eyes are in this industry and almost every industry today.

I’ll leave you with a lesson in public relations that my dad taught me. He’s been in the advertising industry for decades, one of the original mad men. “All there is to public relations is common sense.” Print that one out too and try to remember that last part as you go through life.

UPDATE: Two hours after this article was published, the following resignation was posted by Jerry Tsai on the RECOIL Facebook page and the RECOIL Website.  I truly feel this is the right move for Mr. Tsai and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

It is with deep sorrow that I announce I am stepping down as editor of Recoil, effective immediately.

It is very difficult for me to walk away from something I helped create, something that I loved doing, and something I firmly believed would appeal to a fresh new generation of gun enthusiasts, but I accept that the comments in my story in the current issue have made my position as editor of Recoil untenable.

With that said, Recoil is bigger than any one person, and if my departure will allow Recoil to continue to grow and engage gun enthusiasts, then stepping down as editor is clearly the right thing for me to do.

I accept I made mistakes, and I apologize unreservedly for calling Recoil’s support for Second Amendment rights into question.

While I understand the passions aroused over this incident, the deeply hurtful words from some of my fellow gun enthusiasts have been painful to endure. I hope now we can all move on.

Finally, I would like to thank all those who have supported me over the past few days. These are the people who know me to be at heart a passionate gun enthusiast whose dream was to make something bold and new in firearms media.

Jerry Tsai

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