Arizona Shooting Spree Puts Spotlight on Gun-Toting Candidates

Firearms big and small were widely used as metaphors in 2010 campaigns.

ByABC News
January 10, 2011, 7:50 PM

Jan. 11, 2011— -- When Alabama Agriculture Commissioner hopeful Dale Peterson released an ad proudly touting his rifle, the little-known candidate quickly became a YouTube sensation.

Congressional candidate Rick Barber of Alabama also expanded his fan base with his politically charged "Gather Your Armies" ad, while Congressional hopeful from Arizona Pamela Gorman raked in more than 300,000 clicks for her ad featuring more gun shots than actual words.

These gun-toting candidates may have gotten their few minutes of fame, but Saturday's shooting spree in Tucson has many wondering whether this kind of imagery sends the wrong signal.

The target of Saturday's shooting, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' own opponent Jesse Kelly invited his supporters to "Target for Victory" and fire an automatic M16 with him.

Potential 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin has especially taken heat for telling her supporters not to retreat, but reload, and for her famous map that put crosshairs at specific candidates' districts. Palin has said that neither was meant to incite violence, but many are saying that rhetoric is not enough.

Democrats themselves used a bullseye to illustrate which states they were targeting in a 2004 map by the Democratic Leadership Council.

Gun imagery has no place in politics, says Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., who is penning legislation to make it illegal to place crosshairs on a Congress member's district.

"Using guns is threatening and the bullseyes and the crosshairs, that should have no place in any kind of political debate," Brady told ABC News. "Talk your issues, articulate your issues, that shouldn't -- on both sides -- play into any kind of political discussion."

Confrontational politics aren't a new phenomenon. Neither are gun-toting candidates. But this most recent example of violence, in which 22-year-old Jared Loughner allegedly shot Giffords at point blank range, has touched many people's nerves.