Mark Warner and gun ownership.

The May 29 New Yorker has an enjoyable article, “Central Casting” (by Jeffrey Goldberg) that looks at the conflicting strategies that Democrats are looking to employ in the 2008 presidential elections. Governor Mark Warner makes an appearance in the piece, with two-thirds of a page of coverage. He comes across quite well, though one bit was cringe-worthy: when he visited the Springfield Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, promoted as the world’s largest hunting/fishing store.

There Warner submitted to one of the most reliable humiliations of Democratic politics: the firing range. Though his spokeswoman described him as “more of a rock climber than a hunter,” Warner, entourage in tow, found himself facing a paper target eight yards in front of him.

“Eight yards?” a local reporter asked. “That’s not a lot of distance.”

The Bass Pro Shops guide gave Warner a petite .22 to fire. “You generally want to start out with something small,” he explained. Warner managed to put holes through the target, although he missed the bull’s-eye.

AimingIt is perhaps a measure of the distance (physical and cultural) between here and Northern Virginia that I had to pause for fully ten seconds after reading that to wonder: How can a full-grown Virginian never have fired a rifle? I just assumed that anybody as rich as Roosevelt would naturally have a nice collection of rifles.

To be fair, it’s not directly stated in the article that he’d never shot before. But a presidential candidate, with press present, firing a .22 from 24 feet away? I hope this was a first. Y’all at the Warner camp need to get your man trained. You can bring him out to my folks’ place. There’s a little range, we’ve got nearly a dozen rifles, and we try to keep things on hand that are fun to shoot. We’ll have him grouping like a champ in no time.

7:15pm Update: Warner’s spokeswoman Ellen Qualls points out that he was firing a handgun, not a rifle. That’s a world of a difference, at least in my mind.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

25 replies on “Mark Warner and gun ownership.”

  1. Talk about your culture clashes…

    Let me assure you, in Northern Virginia, where Warner lives, there are plenty of “full-grown Virginians” who have never fired a rifle. Going hunting from here wouldn’t quite be on the level of Dick Cheney’s canned hunting trips, but for most people, it would be close.

    While I agree with your assessment that getting trained would be a good move politically (though possibly a waste of time, considering the near-universal media portrayal of Democrats as citified geeks and Republicans as he-men, regardless of reality), the assumption that “everyone does this” just boggles my mind.

  2. It’s just one of those little things that I never much thought about. Kind of like when you visit a foreign culture and you find that things are different that you never knew could be different but, upon a moment’s reflection, turns out to have been a stupid assumption.

    Vincent: But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
    Jules: What?
    Vincent: It’s the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it’s just – it’s just there it’s a little different.
    Jules: Examples?
    Vincent: Alright, well you can walk into a movie theater in Amsterdam and buy a beer. And I don’t mean just like in no paper cup, I’m talking about a glass of beer. And in Paris, you can buy a beer at McDonald’s. And you know what they call a, uh, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
    Jules: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
    Vincent: Nah, man, they got the metric system, they wouldn’t know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
    Jules: What do they call it?
    Vincent: They call it a “Royale with Cheese.”
    Jules: “Royale with Cheese.”
    Vincent: Thats right.
    Jules: What do they call a Big Mac?
    Vincent: A Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it “Le Big Mac.”
    Jules: “Le Big Mac.” [laughs] What do they call a Whopper?
    Vincent: I dunno, I didn’t go into Burger King. But, you know what they put on french fries in Holland instead of ketchup?
    Jules: What?
    Vincent: Mayonnaise.
    Jules: God damn!
    Vincent: I seen ’em do it, man, they fuckin’ drown ’em in that shit.
    Jules: That’s some fucked up shit.

  3. I think any politician would be wise to steer clear of association with firearms. Nothing good can come of it — you’re either a deadly sharp shooter or Elmer Fudd.

  4. Since you brought up as cultural divide, I will use the opportunity to make a request.

    Does anyone have the Mark Warner converted moonshine song in an mp3 format? It was fun to listen to – “Mark Warner….Public education. Mark Warner….What a reputation” Anyway, I liked it and would like to have it.

    And you are right Waldo – you look silly when you are “starting off with something small” in front of the press corp.

  5. Shooting is just like anything else. You practice and work at it and you’ll get better. I was a lousy shot 6 months ago. We’re talking 5 inch groups at 50 yards. But starting this past deer season, I decided to get really serious about marksmanship. So I started shooting about 100 rounds of .22 and 40-60 rounds of 8mm Mauser every single weekend; rain, snow or shine.

    Fast forward to yesterday morning, when after waking up and having my breakfast I decided to celebrate Memorial Day by sitting on my back steps and shooting wasps at 30 yards with my great grandfather’s (also Waldo’s great grandfather, of course. And that’s me with the Mosin-Nagant in the photos that Waldo links to) single shot .22 rifle. And yes, I was hitting them. With any of my Mausers, I can probably shoot minute of Bambi out to 200 yards offhand and without a scope. There’s nothing special about me. I have no inherant talent as a marksman. I just practice, practice, practice.

    I think I’m up to around a dozen rifles at the moment. Next week I’m picking up a Marlin 1894C in .357 magnum (this will be our designated household coyote gun), plus another Mauser or 2 and a Swiss K-31. Governor Warner is welcome to borrow any of these.

    The Republican party can have my guns when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.

  6. In the asterisk department, I thought I’d chime in. I’m Governor Warner’s spokesperson for his Forward Together PAC. Yes, I’m the one who said he’s more of a rock climber than a hunter. But the asterisk is that the .22 was actually a handgun. And when the New Yorker fact checker called, it sounded like first draft had me verifying that people hunt with handguns. Which actually may be what happens in Nova…but not in most of Virginia.

  7. I believe Warner has shot plenty but is more of a shotgunner than a rifle man–two pretty different disciplines, I’m told. I recently saw a rerun of an episode of the old ESPN show “Under Wild Skies” with Warner out on a Virginia farm shooting geese with some NRA folks and even downing a few. I’m not sure if you’ve ever shot a goose, Waldo, but they can be pretty tough to hit. And unlike John Kerry, he carried his own goose out of the field.

    I haven’t read the article yet but just because the event sponsor chose a rifle range rather than a skeet range to show off the Governor’s country credibility, doesn’t mean Warner is a pathetic city boy. Sadly, we’re not all lucky enough to have been born and raised in Albemarle where you can shoot off your back porch between soy lattes and blogging–so give Warner credit for making an effort. He may not be the world’s greatest shot, but he’s been out there trying to improve and, more importantly, trying to understand why people love field sports in the first place. Alot more than can be said for other candidates in the field.

    Waldo–for a true laugher, how bout taking a poll at your next Dem meeting or, better, at your blogger’s convention and see just how many full grown Virginians have never fired a rifle. I think you’ll find that Warner looks pretty good by comparison.

  8. But the asterisk is that the .22 was actually a handgun.

    Ah. Handguns are a different situation entirely. I’d never shot one in my life until a few months ago. I’m not particularly fond of handguns. If that was his first time with a handgun, it sounds like he did quite a bit better than I did. :) Unfortunate that little tidbit didn’t make it into the article—there’s a big difference between a man who’s never shot a handgun and a man who’s never shot a rifle.

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify that.

    I’m not sure if you’ve ever shot a goose, Waldo, but they can be pretty tough to hit.

    Heck no. Even if I’d tried to shoot a goose, I’m not sure I’d get far. :) As Gov. Warner is, apparently, a shotgun man, I’m a rifle man. I like shooting targets. Anything moving more than that, I’m not likely to get real far with. :)

  9. Mark Warner doesn’t own a gun of any sort. At least he didn’t in 2000, when I encouraged him to pick up a 12 gauge and shoot of box of shells through it. In that campaign shot of him “turkey hunting, he was wearing camo supplied by Sherry Crumbley and a shotgun borrowed from Mudcat. Someone should advise him to leave .22 handguns to others and stick to 00 buckshot.

  10. I have owned fifteen long guns, have six now, and have fired a handgun only a handful of times. I grew up in the most rural part of Virginia where we got two weeks’ vacation from school for deer season. I’d hazard a guess than 50% of the folks there never fired a rifle or handgun.

    As for Warner, he probably did better with the handgun than I would have, and I joined the NRA.

  11. I grew up in the most rural part of Virginia where we got two weeks’ vacation from school for deer season. I’d hazard a guess than 50% of the folks there never fired a rifle or handgun.

    That’s really interesting. You know, just last night I read that Montana has a population of 900,000 and an estimated 6M-7M guns. I’d be curious to know how that compares to Virginia.

    My wife and I realized a few weeks ago that we don’t have any friends with garages. Like shooting experience, I think that says more about who we know than how common garages are.

  12. Accurate shooting with a handgun is a very difficult discipline. I only have this one neat little 7 shot Russian revolver that I shoot now and then and it’s all I can do to even shoot a 6 inch group at 10 yards.

    By the way, plenty of people do hunt with handguns as their primary weapon. Far fewer than those who hunt with rifles, but they are out there. You can even find specially outfitted handguns with rails and scopes that were designed specifically for hunting. Bear hunters will also frequently carry a large caliber handgun as a backup weapon in case it comes to close quarters (although this is more common out west hunting brown bears than with the smaller, less aggressive black bears of Virginia that have made such a habit of crapping on my lawn lately).

    Shooting geese is a pain in the ass. The bastards just won’t stay still in mid air for you. But it’s a hell of a lot of fun to hunt them. And now every time I hear them honking or see them waddling through a field near my house I say out loud: “just you wait until November you fat son of a bitch.”

    Come to think of it, I’ve been saying that about George Allen a lot, too.

  13. It gets worse than that … my children (born and raised in NoVA) never even had TOY GUNS! Oh, well, I guess that means they can blame their parents if they never grow up to become the Governor of the great Commonwealth of Virginia.

  14. My kids never had toy guns when they were children, either. But, that’s probably because I grew up in Massachusetts where hunting wasn’t a part of our culture. But, the thing is, they grew up and, as adults, decided that they were interested in shooting and now they have guns. Hunting is a tough avocation to get good at without a mentor, though.

    As far as the Virginia politics goes, it seems to me that what’s important is that aspirants for office not make themselves look foolish by engaging in shooting sports for public consumption if they have no particular expertise. Such pandering is always transparent.

    Look, most Virginians support the death penalty, but they elected Tim Kaine, an opponent of the death penalty, as Governor. I think Virginians have no problem voting for non-hunters, as long as they’re confident that they won’t impinge the rights of others to own firearms and hunt.

  15. Of course, hunting and knowing how to handle a gun are two different things entirely. I enjoy target shooting, but I don’t expect to take up hunting any time soon.

    I’d like to see many more kids have the opportunity to be introduced to proper handling of firearms. I learned it in Boy Scouts, as did many of my friends, when I got my riflery merit badge. If I hadn’t, my first opportunity may have come at a time when I would have been without guidance as to how to properly handle guns, which could well have been dangerous.

  16. LAR,

    I’m of the opinion that toy guns are a bad idea and I’m not going to allow any of my kids to have realistic-looking toy guns. When my daughter is old enough I will teach her how to safely handle a firearm. And when she is responsible enough, I’ll teach her how to shoot. Probably starting with a bb gun under close supervision and working up to a .22 and onward. But children should not be conditioned to treat firearms as toys.

  17. Waldo,
    I think your comment about Virginian’s should be modified slightly to Native Virginian’s. That is folks who were born and raised here in VA for one or two generation have a greater probability to have shot a gun (rifle or handgun). Alot of NOVA’s folks to my understanding are transplants from other states/countries.

    Also, in the vein of seeing more kids have an education about guns, I’ll plug 4H. There is a 4H program run through most Rifle Clubs where they can learn about firearm safety and even shoot a .22 rifle. Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club has a program that is usually run on Sunday eve’s I believe.

  18. Alot of NOVA’s folks to my understanding are transplants from other states/countries.

    I confess regularly, though not often enough, that Northern Virginia is a complete and utter mystery to me. I’ve been there perhaps a half dozen or a dozen times now. Its geography, politics, social trends and economics are largely unknown to me. I know it’s south of D.C. and sprawls out for quite a ways. I know some place names, but I have a hard time remember what’s a county and what’s a city. So if you say that Northern Virginians haven’t lived here long, all I can do is nod. :)

    Also, in the vein of seeing more kids have an education about guns, I’ll plug 4H. There is a 4H program run through most Rifle Clubs where they can learn about firearm safety and even shoot a .22 rifle.

    You know, I really regret having never joined 4H. At Western Albemarle High School there would have been little less deadly to one’s reputation than joining 4H, so I never even considered it. In retrospect, the time I spent at Civil Air Patrol would have been far better spent at 4H.

    To my knowledge, Girl Scouts don’t learn to handle firearms. I’m glad 4H makes that lesson available to girls.

  19. I wasn’t in 4H as a kid, either. As an Adult, I think it’s great and I regret not pursuing it when I was younger. My kids are really enjoying it though.

  20. Mark Warner is welcome to come out to our house anytime and sit on the porch with a mint julep or a beer, but if there’s any more target practice out here, such as what was happening the day Waldo took those pictures, I swear the neighbors are going to put a “for sale” sign on our property.

  21. I’m happy to offer Mark Warner a mint julep or a beer, but if he’s looking for a soy latte, he’ll have to go elsewhere.

  22. The Republican party can have my guns when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.

    ;-) — I’ve never seen nor heard of any elected Republican official wanting to take anyone’s guns away. Democrats, on the other hand…

    You’re being a little bit hard on Warner, and I think you pegged it later on with your “friends with garages” comparison. The people I know who shoot any kind of gun regularly probably comprise one percent of all the people I know. It’s just not as common as you think.

    Part of the reason Warner won in 2001 was that he “got in touch with his inner Bubba,” as Larry Sabato put it. Warner’s country cred is alive and well, and in that regard he compares favorably to other potential Democratic candidates in 2008. I can’t imagine that too many voters will care very much (or even know) whether he’s a crack shot with a rifle.

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