ATLANTA (AP) — Guns are a frequent staple of the conservative campaign ad. But one candidate in the crowded Republican primary field for Georgia governor has caused an uproar with a campaign video in which he pretends to threaten a young man interested in his daughter with a shotgun.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp tweeted his reaction to the controversy: “I’m conservative, folks. Get over it!”
The video, which was posted to the Kemp campaign’s social media accounts last week and ran on local television, features Kemp sitting in a room full of firearms while talking to a sheepish looking young man.
“I’m Brian Kemp and this is Jake, a young man interested in one of my daughters,” Kemp says while polishing a double-barreled shotgun sitting in his lap.
“Yes sir,” the young man replies with a nervous grin.
Kemp then pretends to force the young man to recite a number of his campaign promises, including to cap government spending, cut regulations and make Georgia the best state for small businesses.
Kemp then says, “And two things if you’re gonna date one of my daughters?”
“Respect,” and “a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment, sir,” the young man says as Kemp trains the shotgun on him.
Gun rights became a major campaign issue in February when Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, another leading Republican candidate for governor, tweeted he would punish Delta Air Lines for ending a discount program for members of the National Rifle Association. The NRA soon endorsed Cagle in the race.
Republican candidates for governor have since taken to television airwaves and social media in a battle to highlight their pro-gun bona fides.
Many of Kemp’s supporters simply see the ad as a bit of light-hearted fun. But the video has not gone over well with critics who say it makes light of gun violence and is especially ill-timed, coming amid a national conversation around gun safety after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February.
One commenter wrote on YouTube: “Pointing a weapon at anything or anyone you don’t intend to shoot is dumber than dirt, Brian Kemp. You know who’s going to be voting against you? Every responsible gun owner in Georgia.?”
But another disagreed, saying: “Priceless!! Best electoral ad I’ve ever seen! Well done (you and) the haters know it too. We just seem to be evolving into an over-dramatic sensitive society is all.“?
WXIA-TV, a local NBC affiliate in the Atlanta area that aired the original advertisement from Kemp, said they had received many negative responses from viewers.
“There has been some support for Kemp but most of the feedback coming to (the station) has been criticism,” WXIA-TV said. “A number of the viewers who have contacted us have demanded that we take the ad off the air entirely.”
The station said Federal Communications Commission rules prohibit it from stopping the ads.
Kemp’s campaign did not answer calls requesting comment for this article, but the candidate has defended himself on social media.
“Liberals in the media are losing their minds off a fake controversy,” Kemp said in a tweet Wednesday. “The real problem they have is that I’m an unapologetic conservative & proud defender of the 2nd Amendment. I won’t back down, cave in, or compromise my values.”