WASHINGTONIAN.COM May 20, 2019 – Once or twice a year, staffers at the Washington Free Beacon can take a firearms safety course that qualifies them to apply for a concealed carry permit. The class, “Basic Pistol,” is taught by Stephen Gutowski, an NRA-certified firearms instructor whose day job is covering firearms and the gun rights movement at the Free Beacon, which is based in Rosslyn.
Gutowski, 32, is from Pennsylvania and was spending the day at his mother’s horse farm when I reached him by phone. Though he’s from an area where lots of kids take the first day of hunting season off from school, Gutowski didn’t grow up using guns: He says he got into them during his first job after college, at what the Media Research Center calls one of its “fun days” for staffers in 2009. He was 22 and shot skeet at MRC founder Brent Bozell’s cabin in Virginia; he got hooked.
Starting in 2014, Gutowski channeled his hobby into a full-time beat at the Free Beacon, which required him to learn ever more about the NRA, “by and large the most important organization when it comes to firearms,” Gutowski says. His connections to the organization are many—not only has he covered it closely (last year, he went strapped to its annual meeting) and appeared on its NRATV service, he’s also an on-and-off member who is currently on—”because you need a membership to attend the board meeting,” he explains. “I don’t think it creates any real conflict of interest but I do my best to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest whenever possible,” he writes in a follow-up email. “If an NRA membership helps me better report a story, as it did in this case, then I think it’s justifiable to have one.” [Read More]