Guns as campaign props, and the politicians who love them

Here’s one reason why we can’t have a rational discussion about guns in America, even after witnessing mass shootings like those in Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Orlando, Columbine, Virginia Tech and San Bernadino, to name just a few: Politicians love guns. They love them so much that they use them as campaign props. They use them as blatantly obvious metaphors for what they plan to do to regulations and laws they don’t like—especially those rules that would limit access to guns. They pledge allegiance to their gun-lobby donor overlords. And they gleefully fire off weapons of mass destruction in their ads as a way of demonstrating their manliness, their toughness and their take-no-prisoners political attitude. Guns are their political weapons of choice.

The violence — both implicit and explicit — in these ads is astonishing and frightening. They promote culture in which people worship guns, boast about their collections, show off their firepower, and willfully refuse to acknowledge the dangers inherent in widespread, unregulated gun ownership. These ads are about addressing problems not with words, but with bullets and brutality. These politicians have calculated that demonstrating a shoot-first-talk-later [or never] attitude is a winning campaign strategy. And unfortunately, in many cases, they are right.

Clearly, the once-hallowed bully pulpit has given way to the bullet pulpit. That’s why I’m not holding my breath waiting for an honest conversation about ways to reduce gun deaths in America.

Here are some examples. Watch and weep.

Ted Cruz making “machine-gun bacon” [2015]

Will Brooke, candidate for Congress in Alabama, having “some fun” exercising his Second Amendment rights to do some damage to Obamacare [2014], as happy music plays in the background.


Eric Greitens [now Missouri Governor], a “conservative warrior,” is all smiles as he fires a machine gun in this 2016 campaign ad:


Montana’s Greg Gianforte blasts a tv screen [2016]. [This is the guy who later assaulted a reporter, and got elected despite the attack—or possibly because of it.]

It’s not just southern Republicans who do this stuff. Even Jason Kander [a Missouri Democrat who ran for US Senate, whom I generally respect] had to get into the act. He lost to incumbent Republican Senator Roy Blunt, a major recipient of gun-lobby campaign funds. Maybe Kander should have shot the gun, not just assembled it.

Nor is this phenomenon exclusive to men. Here’s Jodi Ernst, now Senator Ernst from Iowa, taking her “shot” in 2014.