Let's be honest: the job of a United States senator does not involve much in the way of gunplay. There's a lot of speechifying, a lot of talking, a lot of trying to stay awake in hearings, and a whole lot of fundraising. But shooting in the course of your duties? Very little, if any at all. I suppose it's possible that we might one day see something like a scene out of a G.I. Joe movie, where terrorist commandos take over the Capitol building and the only thing standing between them and the fall of the United States of America is Barbara Mikulski and her .50-cal Desert Eagle, putting down bad guys like poison-pill amendments at a subcommittee markup...but probably not.
Which is part of the reason why I love ads with candidates shooting stuff so much. Candidates do many things in ads that have little or nothing to do with the jobs they're running for—walking over some grass toward the camera with their families, explaining things to small groups of police officers gathered around them, nodding knowingly while a guy in a hardhat points to a construction project—but the shooting is in a class by itself. Nothing else imparts so much in so short a time, an entire cultural standpoint communicated with a pull of a trigger. The latest to show voters her ability to wield a weapon is Alison Lundergan Grimes, who's struggling to catch up to Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky senate race:
If there's one weakness in this ad, it's that Grimes is just shooting clay pigeons. To get your shootin' ad into the realm of the truly comical, you have to shoot something that itself has symbolic value, like a paper copy of a piece of legislation you don't like. If you're going to shoot at an ordinary target, you should at least be talking about Obamacare or something while you do it.
Let's not forget that there was a time in America when a gun was something you used to hunt or for some other practical use, and was not wielded primarily for the purpose of giving coastal liberals the finger. In Kentucky, however, that's what it means today. It's an identity marker, a way of saying not just that you're "one of us," but also that the people who are not us can go screw themselves. This ad might as well end with the announcer saying: "Alison Lundergan Grimes: Not only is she no liberal, she hates liberals. Just like you do." That's why there are two targets of Grimes' ad: the senior senator who has probably been in Washington so long that he can't remember the last time he fired hot lead into an oblivious herbivore from fifty yards away, and the other person she mentions, that gun-grabbing citified elitist, Barack Obama.
The picture of McConnell she mocks him with comes from the latest CPAC conference, where he walked on stage with a rifle held over his head to the applause of the crowd. Just like this ad, it was an attempt at a non-verbal demonstration of cultural affinity, cheered by an audience who were no doubt thinking, "Heh heh, the libs will sure hate that!" I guess in Kentucky, that's a game everybody plays.