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Backstory: Unlikeliest Bonding Experience


  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Robby Mazza

While reporting a story last spring about the right's reaction to Vermont's new gun laws, I decided to give Robby Mazza a call. The president of Colchester's All Seasons Excavating had been a big Phil Scott supporter but had turned on the governor over the latter's newfound support for gun control.

Mazza, I soon learned, was not as interested in speaking with me as I was with him.

"I don't expect anything fair to come out of you guys because you're so left-leaning," he said of Seven Days when I reached him over the phone. "The left continues to get what they want by wrecking storefronts, burning cars on highways. Look at the stuff they got away with in Ferguson, Missouri!"

Oh, boy, I thought. Wasn't expecting to be accused of looting today!

Later in the conversation, Mazza turned his attention to what he considered the demonization of the AR-15.

"I happen to own one," he said. "I'd invite you here anytime you want to fire it." Mazza probably wasn't expecting me to accept his invitation, but I did.

A few days later, I met Mazza at his company's vast industrial compound, between Malletts Bay Avenue and Interstate 89. When he ushered me into his office, I was surprised to find two other men waiting for me, John Nagle and Pat Wright.

Was this an ambush? I wondered. For the next 20 minutes, they held forth on all the bogeymen they consider responsible for the loss of their gun rights.

"Mitzi Johnson," Mazza said, referring to the Democratic House speaker. "She's nothing more than a common criminal — and you can put that in your paper."

David Hogg, an 18-year-old gun-control activist and survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting? "That little jackass," Mazza opined.

"I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but the Muslims — they want to kill as many of us as they can," he said.

Huh, I thought. This is the guy I'm about to shoot guns with?

With that, Mazza, Nagle and I headed out to the All Seasons gravel pit with enough firepower to hold up a bank. Mazza set up a plastic folding table and, one by one, arrayed his firearms: a Ruger 10/22, a Colt AR-15 and a Remington 12-gauge shotgun.

Mazza told me he offered firearm safety training to kids "before they can become gun haters." He continued, "It's like a guy that hates a Chevy over a Ford that's never driven one."

Over the next hour, Mazza gave me my own personal firearm training, as if I were a Boy Scout in search of a merit badge. He delivered a stern safety lecture and patiently showed me how to fire each gun.

Mazza, it seemed, enjoyed showing off his hobby. And I didn't have a bad time myself.

As I sat down to write my story the next day, I decided to lead with one of Mazza's more provocative remarks, in which he referred to Scott as a "sellout bastard." I worried a little about what Mazza would make of the story. After all, he didn't "expect anything fair" from us looters.

Not long after the paper hit the streets, Mazza called my cellphone. Much to my relief, he said he loved it.