James Yeager’s Youtube videos are no stranger to Guns.com’s Gun Bazaar and it would seem now, with one poorly worded tirade, they are no longer a stranger to anybody following the national gun debate after the civilian self defense instructor and Tactical Response CEO posted a 1:17 minute long video claiming he would “kill people” if President Obama bypassed Congress and used an executive order to ban semi-automatic weapons. Then he edited out the part where he said he was going to kill people. Then he posted another video saying he stands by everything he said in the first video. Then he went on Channel 4 and said he was just angry.
Aside from the media scrutiny over his language, coverage of the video has prompted the Department of Homeland Security and the Tennessee Department of Safety to suspend Yeager’s handgun permit stating his comments constitute a “material likelihood of risk of harm to the public”.
Yeager posted the video, titled Pack Your Bags, to his Youtube account on Jan. 10 in response to media speculation that President Obama may issue an executive order banning the sale and/or ownership of semi-automatic weapons, regardless of the findings from Vice President Biden’s recent meeting with gun manufacturers and lobbyists like the National Rifle Association this past week. Addressing the camera, a visibly angry Yeager explains his understanding of this news story and then launches into an obscenity laced rant, invoking a new Civil War, violent civil disobedience and ending with the statement, “if it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people”.
Perhaps realizing he had crossed a line, the video was then edited and re-posted without the final warning. But the Internet sees all and site users quickly uncovered the unedited content after Yeager initially denied claims that he had made death threats in the video.
These videos were scooped up by news outlets like the Huffington post and subsequently caught the attention of the Department of Homeland security. Along with being explicit that Yeager was not a Department of Safety and Homeland Security certified instructor, nor is his defense school Department certified, Bill Gibbons responded for the agency stating, “The number one priority for our department is to ensure the public’s safety. Mr. Yeager’s comments were irresponsible, dangerous, and deserved our immediate attention. Due to our concern, as well as that of law enforcement, his handgun permit was suspended immediately. We have notified Mr. Yeager about the suspension today via e-mail. He will receive an official notification of his suspension through the mail.” According to these officials Yeager can seek a review of the department’s decision in the general sessions court.
In an attempt to explain his extreme position, Yeager then submitted a follow-up post titled Pack Your Bags Part 2. In this video he back peddles a little on the tone of part 1, stating that it wasn’t his intention to inspire any felonies, though ultimately reaffirms his support of the claims he made in the first video. He also lashes out at “fair weather Second Amendment people” who are telling him he is doing “a disservice to the gun community” by behaving like this.
Finally, Yeager conducted an interview with Nashville’s Channel 4. Once again he denies that he said he said he would kill people in his first video, though concedes he “…probably should have metered [his] words better”. When asked, he confirms that he would shoot anyone attempting to confiscate his weapons.
Yeager boasts an impressive resume including stints in law enforcement in Big Sandy and Hollywood movie credits as a tactical consultant. He claims that his certifications with Homeland Security expired and he was in the process of renewing them, though representatives for the DHS deny these claims and bloggers had been calling his persona into question just weeks before this incident.
Guns.com attempted to contact Yeager but received an automated response. According to officials with the DHS, Yeager can seek a review of the department’s decision later this year.
However, the grand irony of Yeager’s uncomfortable statements and loss of his handgun permit may be that the news story that angered him to the point of making violent threats appears to be entirely speculative. Though Vice President Biden did mention the possibility of Obama using executive order, he has said nothing about semi-automatic weapons, rather that connection has been drawn in the press by news outlets who have run editorials, postulating or petitioning for the President to bypass Congress in his gun control bid.
For our own part, Guns.com (who will be officially handling the NRA’s coverage of this years 2013 SHOT show in Las Vegas next week) sourced directly from the NRA representatives who attended the meeting with Biden and who reported to us unfortunately that the VP would recommend a ban on high capacity magazines and an overhaul to the background check system with universal checks on all purchases. Biden also said he was interested in meeting with gun manufacturers in a move similar to approaches seen in the auto industry.
In some regard, Mr. Yeager’s passion for the Second Amendment as a self-defense instructor is commendable and his statements in a way do help emphasize the unfeasibility of government firearm confiscation (though perhaps not in the way he originally intended). Yet, despite his insistence in his follow up video to the contrary, his delivery—the swearing, the threatening violence and the repeated denial of these actions despite recorded evidence—likely does more harm to the image of gun owners than it does good. And with a very real political battle ahead, gun-owners can’t afford to have the truth inherent in their argument clouded by emotional tantrums over speculative information. I am reminded of a more vaguely threatening statement attributed to another self described protector of the Second Amendment: Speak softly, and carry a big stick.
Though I’m guessing Yeager’s lawyer reminded him of that.