clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

8 times politicians fired actual guns at abstract concepts

The gun is a flag. Or is the flag a gun? Either way, something abstract will be shot.
The gun is a flag. Or is the flag a gun? Either way, something abstract will be shot.
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Occasionally, politicians change laws through lawmaking, but they've also found another technique: shooting representations of things. They take a shotgun to a copy of Obamacare, or use a rifle to hit a printed Cap and Trade bill, and then they put it in their campaign ads.

It's a surprisingly recent phenomenon that's attracted candidates on both sides of the aisle.

1) Rand Paul attempts to destroy the tax code

The scene: On September 16, 2015, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) shot at stacked boxes containing the IRS tax code. He used an AR-15, an antique 9mm pistol, and a semi-automatic shotgun at a California firing range.

Did the representation survive? Paul hit the target, but the boxes appear to still be largely intact.

Did the abstract concept survive? Currently, there is still a tax code.

2) A primary candidate targets Obamacare

The scene: In 2014, Alabama's 6th district primary candidate Will Brooke (R) packed a copy of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in an oddly beautiful wooden box. He then shot it with a wide range of weapons. Brooke placed 5th in the primary.

Did the representation survive? "We had some fun and we knocked some holes in it," Brooke says, "but we didn't quite get the job done." He then put it in a wood chipper, but it's unclear how well the machine destroyed each page.

Did the abstract concept survive? Yeah, Obamacare continues to exist.

3) An Alaskan shoots television

The scene: In 2014, Alaska's Dan Sullivan (R) shot a television on a small pedestal. It was part of his Senate campaign as a representation of ads bought by Washington special interests. Sullivan became Alaska's Junior Senator in 2015.

Did the representation survive? The TV is destroyed with two shots, and it can no longer display campaign ads paid for by special interests.

Did the abstract concept survive? Negative campaign ads continue to exist.

4) A Washingtonian shoots the GOP

The scene: In 2014, central Washington Congressional candidate Estakio Beltran (D) competed against two Republicans in a blanket primary (he lost to both). In a campaign ad, he appears very close to an elephant piñata and shoots it.

Did the representation survive? It appears the piñata's tail is shot off, and it then falls over, presumably killing it. However, the ad does not reveal what candy is inside the piñata .

Did the abstract concept survive? The elephant piñata represents the GOP. The GOP continues to exist.

5) A Montanan shoots down a drone

The scene: In 2014, state legislator Matthew Rosendale (R) used an anti-drone attack as part of his Libertarian candidacy. He was not elected.

Did the representation survive? Though we see the gunshot, the drone is probably just a few computer graphics slapped onto the screen. However, an aerial device was used to tape the shot of Rosendale.

Did the abstract concept survive? The abstract concept, best defined as "government surveillance," is hard to define clearly. However, it's probably fair to say the situation is largely unchanged.

6) An Oklahoman shoots a Texan water cooler

The scene: In 2012, Rob Wallace (D) ran for the congressional primary in Oklahoma and won (though he was defeated by Markwayne Mullin in the general election). In this ad, he shoots a water cooler with a picture of Texas taped on the back. The issue refers to a water dispute in which Texas tried to make use of an old water agreement to divert Oklahoma water to the booming Dallas region.

Did the representation survive? The cooler and picture are destroyed.

Did the abstract concept survive? No. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas couldn't use old agreements to take Oklahoman water.

7) An Arizonan fires at a flying copy of Obamacare

The scene: In 2012, Congressional candidate and Arizona State Senator Ron Gould (R) made a campaign ad where he loaded the Affordable Care Act into a trap thrower and shot it in the air. It may be one of the most impressive displays of campaign marksmanship because it involves a moving target.

Did the representation survive? Though HR 3590 doesn't totally disintegrate, it seems significantly damaged from a solid hit.

Did the abstract concept survive? As noted earlier, Obamacare continues to exist.

8) Joe Manchin takes "dead aim" at the climate bill

The scene: In 2010, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin (D) shot an actual cap-and-trade bill as part of his Senate campaign bid. The bill would have set a nationwide cap on carbon-dioxide emissions and allowed companies some compliance flexibility to meet that cap. It was also expected to hit West Virginia's coal industry.

After the ad, Manchin was elected and is now the state's senior senator. This ad is considered the surprisingly recent beginning of the abstract-concept-shooting trend.

Did the representation survive? We see a hole in the center of the cap and trade bill, but much of the text remains intact. However, if the cap and trade bill had vital organs near its title, it would not survive the bullet's impact.

Did the abstract concept survive? The bill died in 2010, although Obama's recent EPA rules for carbon dioxide have revived the idea.

Bonus: Canadians have moved on to dragon slaying with swords

Independent Canadian parliament candidate Wyatt Scott shows the future of abstract-concept slaying: swords and lasers. It's probably an attention grab — there's not a clear symbolic explanation for why he is attacking robots with laser eyes or taking out aliens, but it has helped his campaign ad go viral.

We'll learn the results after the October 19 election.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.