Handguns photo

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Kissing babies is out. Sending rounds downrange is in. More and more politicians are making it a point to be seen with firearms, according to this story on National Public Radio:

Jesse Kelly, a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona, is wielding an assault rifle in his political ads. Russ Carnahan, a Democratic congressman from Missouri, is pictured in a home state newspaper pointing a pistol at a target. Lou Ann Zelenik, a Republican congressional hopeful from Tennessee, posted on Facebook a photo of her smiling as she gets in “a little bit of practicing” at a target range. _So far, 2010 “has been a big year for guns in political ads,” says Darrell West, director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. Well, it is a scary world. And voters are looking for can-do leaders who can solve complex problems easily. But there is the question of whether a parade of politicians pictured with guns makes us feel safer, or even more frightened.

The locked-and-loaded list goes on: Christina Jeffrey, a Tea Party congressional candidate ˜ and grandmother ˜ who lost in the June primary in South Carolina, can still be found on YouTube brandishing an AK-47 and extolling the virtues of the Second Amendment. Pamela Gorman, a Republican candidate for congress in Arizona, has made an Internet ad featuring her firing a variety of different guns. She’s a “conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot,” the narrator says. “It’s product differentiation,” says Mac McCorkle, who teaches the politics of public policy at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. “In a big Republican year with a crowded field, a primary candidate posing with a gun is a quick attention-getting symbol or message to people that ‘I’m really conservative.’ “Such a message, McCorkle says, especially appeals to the base voters ˜ those most likely to be voting in the primaries._

So does filming political ads armed to the teeth really say something about a candidate, or is it just another example of meaningless political posturing? The more cynical among us might point out that that’s precisely the point, but are you more or less inclined to vote for a candidate based on a political ad featuring guns, even if it’s painfully obvious said politician has in all likelihood never picked up a gun prior to filming the ad?