For these U.S. Senate candidates, happiness is a warm gun

“D. Boon Kilt a Bar, 1803”

— Daniel Boone, probable forgery

From the sound of the shots emanating from the hunt for Harry Reid’s U.S. Senate seat, the woods are full of patriotic frontiersmen.

You can’t swing a coonskin cap without encountering a Senate candidate holding a 12-gauge for a photo opportunity or reminiscing about their limitless — if previously little known — love of guns, hunting and the sacred Second Amendment. It’s getting so intense I hear the Las Vegas Review-Journal is considering sending In the Outdoors columnist C. Douglas Nielsen on the road with the candidates.

Not many among the covey of candidates has bagged a brace of quail outside a gourmet restaurant, but their actions with the guns-and-ammo set show how far they’re willing to go to court conservative voters.

The challenge for those gunning for Reid is simple: Like most Western senators, he’s very conservative on gun rights. His critics say he’s out of touch with Nevada, but he’s in line with Silver State sentiment on the Second Amendment.

Reid was smart to include a hunting anecdote in his memoir, “The Good Fight.” He recalls that as a boy in Searchlight he once kilt a jackrabbit with a .22 rifle. His grandmother added it to a savory stew, which is no mean feat considering jackrabbit meat is rank and stringy.

Reid is highly skilled at serenading the Second Amendment set. Of course, it helps to carry Reid’s caliber of congressional clout.

As a gift to local sportsmen, Reid rammed through
$61 million in federal funding and secured 2,900 acres under the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act for the creation of the Clark County Shooting Park. The facility opened in March with Reid shot-gunning clay pigeons and Second Amendment icon and National Rifle Association of America Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre lauding the Searchlight senator’s hard work. LaPierre said the park “would not have opened without the work of Senator Reid.” Reid also received a salute from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, not exactly a liberal front group.

With those kinds of endorsements, it’s no wonder Republican challengers Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian have practiced the if-you-can’t-beat-him-borrow-the-sports-park-for-a-photo-op strategy.

The sound of grand opening gunfire was still in the air when Lowden, the former TV news anchor, announced she was sponsoring the “Protect Your Freedom Gun Shoot” at the gun park her opponent helped create. In the photo I saw, Lowden looked, well, less than comfortable. But on her website she reminds us she earned “A” ratings from the NRA in her two state Senate races.

Not to be outdone, Tarkanian took part in something called the “Liberty Shootout.” Uh, it was also at Reid’s gun park.

If memory serves, Tarkanian took many jump shots as a star on the UNLV basketball team. But I don’t recall him taking a single gunshot. Still, his website assures everyone he is unabashed in his affection for the Second Amendment.

Republican challenger Sharron Angle is a proud gun owner who, I’m told, packs a pistol on occasion (but luckily for her opponents, never on days she’s debating the issues.) The rock-solid conservative is endorsed by the Gun Owners of America.

Ely-native-turned-New-York businessman John Chachas reminds interviewers he once hunted deer and has been a proud gun owner. Although his website fails to mention a single word about his surely rapturous Second Amendment support, I’m betting he’ll kill another deer — or even a Bar! — on demand if it persuades hunters to vote for him.

No matter what you’ve heard, the Second Amendment isn’t endangered in Nevada. Not with all these wanna-be Daniel Boones roaming the woods.

Still, it’s getting hard to breathe from all the political gun smoke in the air.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at


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