On the day that congressional candidate Pat Davis’ campaign aired an ad that rendered our culture’s frustration and feelings of alienation about the NRA into blunt, easy to understand language, I ran into my former neighbor at the corner store we both used to frequent, until I moved away.
As usual, he was loaded for bear and wearing black clothing. Carrying a .45 caliber semi-automatic on one hip, a large unfolded knife in a scabbard on the other—and at least two spare ammo clips on his belt—he sauntered through the convenience store making everyone in the building anxious if not downright frightened. His Ford Explorer, bedecked with NRA bumper stickers, sat in the parking lot with the engine running. When he tried to say hello to me, I ducked my head, turned and left, amazed that his presentation was tolerated in civil society.
And then I heard Davis’ ad. It tells the NRA to fuck off. Given my recent experience, I was curious about what exactly candidate Davis meant. So I gave him a bell and we arranged to meet at a local coffee shop.
This is what he said.
Weekly Alibi: Tell me about the ad, please.
Pat Davis: We were sitting around campaign headquarters, maybe for a couple of weeks, trying to figure out how we were going to address the issues of gun violence and the NRA. Every time we came up with a new idea, it seemed like every other ad we’d seen about gun violence. None of those ads ever really changed things, changed the game. Finally, one of my exasperated staff said, “you know what? Fuck the NRA.” We all looked at each other and remarked, “We’ve all said that!” So we decided to give it some voice and see where that would lead.
How did you fashion this important message?
We went to a city park with a film crew and one camera. We edited the results in house and shipped it off to the television station (KRQE TV-13) to see if they would run it.
How did that go?
It took a little longer for them to give us the okay then it did for other projects we had worked on with them. But they finally came back and said that there is a rule that says you can’t cuss on television and there’s another rule that says we can’t censor candidates. We’re going to go with the second rule. We are going to allow you to run it, but the station is going to broadcast a disclaimer before it runs. I have to admit that’s a bonus for us: if potential voters are watching TV and then their screen goes dark and then a voice says that something weird is about to happen, it becomes a very compelling ad. The response has been overwhelming.
How has the response been overwhelming?
It [the ad] made the front page of the Washington Post. It was the number one trending story on Fox News. I read a national news story that said it dominated the conversation [about the District 1 Congressional campaign], that it was the political ad of the season. We got 500 new donors in the 24 hours following the ad’s first airing. We have the funding to keep the ad on-air for the next three weeks.
How does all of this affect your candidacy?
Well, for six weeks now, there have been, basically, two tiers of candidates in that race. I’ve been tied, as a frontrunner, with two of those top tier candidates. What we’ve seen with our internal polling is that all the candidates have grown equal amounts of support. This has clearly put me out front as someone who is willing to take on big issues, to make gun violence and the NRA number one issues in this country.
So, what does “Fuck the NRA” mean?
The meaning is simple. Even current members of Congress agree that there are common sense things that can be done to keep firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. But every time attention is focused on this issue, every time there is another mass shooting, the NRA comes up with one answer: more guns. They told us that after Sandy Hook, after San Diego and Parkland. Obviously more guns are not the answer. The NRA needs to be told that they are not a reasonable partner anymore. We can do this important work without asking for their permission. For too long, we’ve deferred to them. They want to be part of the conversation on gun law reform. I’m saying they shouldn’t be the defining voice of that discussion now.
Does that message get lost through cussing?
No. We ran that ad and it clearly got their attention and the attention of voters who are frustrated with the NRA. Now we get to have the conversation on our terms. People know that I won’t be one of those politicians who says they’re going to do something, but then heads for DC and forgets about it because it’s hard going. The NRA wanted to have this debate and we should have it. I’m going to debate the issue tonight on Fox News, on the Tucker Carlson show. We had to draw a line, tell people about where I’m coming from … a candidate cannot be afraid to call out people and organizations that are in the way of democracy. We’re really serious about that, and about getting something done with regards to gun violence.