‘I’d trust him with my bullet’

‘I’D TRUST HIM WITH MY BULLET’…. I realize it’s a contentious election season, and candidates, pundits, and even regular ol’ voters are going to push the rhetorical envelope a bit. But I continue to feel deeply uncomfortable with instances in which the right talks up using violence for political ends.

In New York’s 20th district, Republican Chris Gibson is taking on incumbent Rep. Scott Murphy (D), and using all of the old, tired talking points. But in a new video, Gibson, after complaining about “big government,” asks a group of voters, “What do you think he thinks of your privacy? You trust a guy like that with your guns?”

Many in the audience say, “No,” but one attendee is clearly heard yelling out, “I’d trust him with my bullet!” Gibson said nothing in response.

The Republican campaign argued yesterday that the far-right candidate didn’t hear the comment. That’s very hard to believe — not only is the remark easily heard on the clip, but Gibson appears to look right at the guy after he said it.

Now, I have no idea whether the voter who yelled out actually intends to commit an act of violence — we can certainly hope not — but I’d feel a whole lot better about Republican candidates like Gibson if they were willing to tell their supporters that such talk is unacceptable.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox once said, “To sit in silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men.” Chris Gibson offers a pretty clear example of this.

What’s more, Chris Gibson told the same group, “We are facing threats from both abroad and from within. Al-Qaida from abroad and federal encroachment here at home.”

What kind of candidate for public office compares the government of the United States to al Qaeda? I guess the kind of candidate who remains silent when a supporter talks about shooting his opponent.

Gibson, by the way, remains a very competitive GOP challenger, with a chance of actually winning that seat.

Update: What’s more, Gibson isn’t just some random fringe candidate who won a primary on a fluke — he’s a member of the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program.

Second Update: I originally thought the “bullet” and “al Qaeda” remarks were from separate events, but they came from the same gathering. I’ve corrected the text accordingly.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.