OPINION: When the looting hordes come, who you gonna call?

Former congressman Paul Broun and an AR-15, a tool to keep at bay the “looting hordes from Atlanta.” (Screenshot from Broun campaign video)

Former congressman Paul Broun and an AR-15, a tool to keep at bay the “looting hordes from Atlanta.” (Screenshot from Broun campaign video)

During these times of dread, worry and uncertainty, it’s soothing to come across something reassuring and familiar — like former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun in a field blasting away with an AR-15.

Broun, who stands two steps to the right of Attila the Hun, has released a video ad that has gone viral, one that mixes good-old-fashioned gun play with philosophizing and fear.

Now, a politician fondling weaponry here in Georgia is old hat. Some might even criticize it as a cheap political stunt. So Broun, who brags he was once the nation’s most conservative congressman, needed to jazz up his call to arms.

Broun is one of nine hopefuls who have jumped into the Republican primary to replace U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the Trump attack dog who is leaving to run against U.S. Senate newbie Kelly Loeffler.

Campaigns for open congressional seats are akin to tossing a bag of ground beef into a dog pen. Things get loud, often messy, and are fun to watch.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed regular campaigning backstage and has made it hard for candidates to raise money, what with our jobs and 401(K)s shriveling before our eyes.


icon to expand image

But tough times bring initiative, and that’s where Broun steps in, making the coronavirus work for his campaign.

The video starts with the 73-year-old candidate in a field with his “Liberty Machine,” which to you clueless libs is a powerful semi-automatic rifle. He says he wants to give it away to some lucky person — ya gotta be 17 — who signs up to his campaign website.

“In uncertain times like these, the right to defend yourself and your property and your family could not be more important,” Broun said to the camera between shots. “Whether it’s looting hordes from Atlanta, or a tyrannical government from Washington, there are few better liberty machines than an AR-15.”

Ah, now that’s the ticket! Usually, when a politician says he’s pro-Second Amendment, all you hear after that is “blah, blah, blah,” because they’re all saying it. At least those on the right side of the aisle.

But bring up apocalyptic scenes of panic and disorder, well, now you're talking. The video got broad replay in the national and international media with criticisms that it's bringing up racial overtones with "looting hordes from Atlanta."

Ready, aim … Former congressman and current congressional candidate Paul Broun lets loose with his AR-15. Screenshot from Broun campaign video

icon to expand image

And while it sounds like a classic dog whistle, Broun, in an interview, seemed to be shocked that anyone would consider that. He never mentioned anything about race, he said.

“The liberal press calls it racist, but that’s absolutely incorrect,” he said. “Those who claim it’s racist are racists themselves.”

He pointed out Atlanta isn’t just black people. And I’ll give him that. Perhaps the people from Gainesville and other North Georgia counties worry that the Buckhead types and Atlanta’s young gentrifying hipsters might get dangerous once they run out of toilet paper or can no longer order takeout tapas. That is a possibility, right?

Broun pushed back on the idea that this was copying Brian Kemp’s shotgun ad, the one that helped Kemp to become Governor Shotgun. No, Broun said, he did this back in 2014 during his failed Senate campaign.

Paul Broun back when he was Georgia’s newest congressman. An avid hunter, Broun had decorated his Capitol Hill office with animals he’d hunted from all over the world. (RICK MCKAY/Cox Washington Bureau file)

icon to expand image

Broun then doubled down on the disorder angle. “We have a real potential of having mobs of people who could be a threat to individuals and businesses. I’ve seen news stories where in Chicago and Washington, D.C., they are boarding up businesses to prevent hordes of thugs. There’s a very real possibility that big cities like Atlanta might very well have this problem. Small communities, too.”

He added that there are plenty of white thugs, like the black-garbed troublemakers of Antifa, although I'd wager most of them would have a hard time plugging Dawsonville or Toccoa into their GPSs.

Now, the problem with writing about an election for an open seat is there are plenty of other candidates out there, so I should mention them for the sake of fairness. If you look at their websites, they all want small government, low taxes and are very, very pro-gun. You've got to be in a district that is one of the most conservative in the nation and went 78-19 for Donald Trump.

There are two (yes, two!) candidates who own gun stores, Kellie Weeks and Andrew Clyde. There is the former GOP chairman of Forsyth County, Ethan Underwood. There are "outsiders," Maria Strickland and Michael Boggus.

Republican state Rep. Kevin Tanner presents proposed legislation at the state Capitol in Atlanta on March 7, 2019. EMILY HANEY / AJC.com

icon to expand image

And, of course, there are state legislators looking for a political promotion — three of them: state Rep. Matt Gurtler, state Rep. Kevin Tanner and state Sen. John Wilkinson.

Gurtler is 31 and is called Dr. No because he likes to hit the red button on his desk. Wilkinson is a retired teacher and farmer. And Tanner, who is retired from law enforcement, has the support of former Gov. Nathan Deal, who once represented that district.

State Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, at the state Capitol in Atlanta on February 19, 2013. JASON GETZ / AJC file photo

icon to expand image

Broun dismissed Wilkinson and Tanner as “establishment, liberal Republicans.” While they are certainly Republican and may have backing from members of the establishment, they are by no means liberal. Perhaps only in Dr. Broun’s noggin. Yes, he is a medical doctor and still makes house calls.

But what I have found puzzling, and even troubling, is the notion of collecting weaponry to fight against your “tyrannical government.” I’ve always wanted to ask a few things from those espousing this theory: Who decides when the government is a tyranny? At what point does the counterinsurgency kick in? And who do you shoot at first? Police? Social workers? Members of an opposing party?

Theoretical patriotism could become political murder.

Broun pushed back at this, saying that the Second Amendment was designed to protect the citizenry from such tyranny.

“We in this country have lost the fear our Founding Fathers had of an all-powerful, centralized government,” he said. “We need to have this fear still.”

There is also a religious element to this, said Broun, a fellow who once called evolution a “lie from the pit of hell.”

At its most basic, the Second Amendment, he said, “protects a God-given right to own a firearm.”

And that’s something to remember during this Easter celebration.