August 2, 2010

God & Guns

God and guns seem to be popular themes in 2010 campaign ads, sometimes popping up in close proximity.

Before losing in the Republican runoff in Alabama’s 2nd congressional district, candidate Rick Barber garnered national attention for this campaign video featuring a portrayal of George Washington rapping his fingers next to a Bible and what appears to be a revolutionary-era pistol. With the concluding line of “gather your armies,” Barber put himself in the crosshairs of pundits on both the left and right who described the ad as a “call to treason” (MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann) and “misguided” (Glenn Beck, on his radio show). In another ad, Barber uses the same Bible-and-gun motif, adding the Gadsden (“don’t tread on me”) flag.

Pamela Gorman, a Republican candidate in Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, came out shooting in her first campaign ad. After a clip of her firing off what Politico identified as a Thompson submachine gun (the iconic weapon of gangster films), the narrator says, “Meet Pamela Gorman…conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot.” She goes on to fire, in succession, two handguns and an assault rifle, a gun similar to that used by military and law enforcement personnel.

Republicans aren’t the only ones to campaign on the themes of faith and arms. Tommy Sowers, a Democratic candidate in Missouri’s 8th congressional district, refers to his military service in a campaign ad, saying, “When I served in Iraq, I wasn’t alone. I had my fellow soldiers and this combat Bible.” He then holds up a steel-encased Bible. His military experiences are also highlighted in several places on his campaign website, including in a video entitled, Tommy Sowers: Soldier.

Another much-viewed campaign ad of a candidate wielding a firearm – albeit, without any mention of his faith – was made by Dale Peterson, former candidate for Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries. In the ad, he hefts what The Washington Post identified as a Winchester rifle over a fence and declares, “I’m Dale Peterson. I’ll name names and take no prisoners.” After losing the Republican primary, Peterson released another adendorsing his former opponent, John McMillan, in which the Winchester, referred to as the “quintessential cowboy rifle” in a separate article in thePost, never leaves Peterson’s hand.

Conservative commentator Beck and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called for a return to “God, guns and the polls” at a National Rifle Association rally in May 2010, as reported by The Charlotte Observer. While majorities of Americans in the late 1990s through much of the 2000s said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect the rights of Americans to own guns, recent surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press have found increasing support for gun rights. According to a March 2010 survey, the public is evenly split on gun ownership: 46% of Americans said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect the rights of Americans to own guns, while 46% said it was more important to protect gun rights. Between 2008 and 2009, support for the right to own guns increased substantially among men – particularly white men – high school graduates, independents and people living in the Midwest and South.

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