After the shooting in Newtown, some politicians who had previously been endorsed by the NRA and long supported nearly unlimited gun rights came forward to declare that they were rethinking their positions. The first and perhaps most notable was West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, and nearly every news story about his change of heart mentioned that in a famous television ad when he ran for the Senate two years ago, Manchin not only touted his NRA endorsement but dramatically fired a bullet through a copy of a cap and trade bill. But if you though a candidate brandishing a gun to demonstrate his cultural affinity with rural voters was something unusual, you'd be wrong. We've assembled some of the gun-totin'-est political ads from the last few years.
Let's start with Manchin, who showed voters how he'd deal with legislation that might restrict the West Virginia coal industry's ability to pollute the air:
Manchin isn't the only one who knows that the best way to handle a law you don't like is to shoot a paper copy of it. Here's Ron Gould, who proudly noted on his 2012 campaign web site that he had been rated the most conservative state senator in Arizona (which is saying something). For his doomed congressional run, Gould aired this ad showing him firing a shotgun blast at the Affordable Care Act:
But what if you want to make a point about a policy issue, but there isn't an actual bill for you to shoot? No problem. Democratic House candidate Rob Wallace wanted to show voters he wouldn't allow "special interests" to steal Oklahoma's water and give it to Texas. So naturally, he took a jug of water, taped a picture of Texas to it, and shot it:
Prior to the 2012 election, Georgia congressman John Barrow was one of the last remaining white Democrats from the Deep South. With his seat in danger, he decided to tell his constituents that he was just as paranoid about his guns as they were about theirs. "I approved this message because these are my guns now," he says in this ad after showing off his grandfather's and father's guns. "And ain't nobody gon' take 'em away." He lost anyway.
There's the inimitable Dale Peterson, who somehow lost his run for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner despite a television presence that was nothing short of electrifying. His first ad created a sensation, but in that one he merely carried around his rifle. After he lost the primary, he cut this ad for his opponent, in which he fires into the air to stop some no-good cur from stealing a yard sign:
It isn't just southerners who wield their weapons in TV ads. Most people didn't realize it, but Joe Wurzelbacher—better known as Joe the Plumber—ran unsuccessfully for Congress this year. The most notable thing to come out of his campaign was this ad, in which he fires his shotgun at some fruit that were obviously displaying pro-socialist tendencies. In the voice-over, Wurzelbacher explains how the Holocaust was caused by gun control. Seriously. He won the Republican primary, but lost the general election by 49 points.
For pure firepower and rounds expended, nobody comes close to 2010 House candidate Pamela Gorman, who aired this spectacular ad in which she fires not one, not two, not three, but four different guns, including a revolver, a semi-automatic pistol, a semi-automatic rifle, and a fully automatic machine gun. Although this video comes from the humor site Funny Or Die, Gorman was a real candidate and this was a real ad (the version her campaign put up on YouTube has embedding disabled). Gorman came in fifth in a ten-way GOP primary, losing to noted meritocracy advocate Ben Quayle. If you only watch one ad in this group, make it this one:
And finally, here's an ad that stands out from the others. In 1994, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska aired an ad the announcer describes as "a message from Senator Bob Kerrey to Charlton Heston," who was then chair of the NRA. Kerrey fires a shotgun, then holds up an AK-47, saying he was hunted with guns like it in Vietnam, "but you don't need one of these to hunt birds."