Missing the Target

Alison Lundergan Grimes’s New TV Ad Is One Big Gun Gaffe

The Kentucky Senate candidate tries to show Mitch McConnell how it’s done on guns (and therefore politics) in her new TV ad—but only ends up shooting herself in the foot.

09.16.14 9:20 PM ET

Kentucky senate hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) lectured Sen. Mitch McConnell (R ) in a new ad designed to up her firearm bona fides, that in reality may turn out to be more of a gun gaffe. In the new ad, titled “Skeet Shooting,” Grimes confidently tracks targets with a shotgun (and also lays out her disagreements with President Obama). Then she shows a picture of McConnell with a gun in one hand, and chides him: “Mitch, that’s not how you hold a gun.”

But the Kentucky Democrat shoots herself in the foot here, figuratively speaking: despite the ad’s title she’s not skeet shooting, as any true skeet aficionado would be able to tell. Skeet shooting involves two target-launching devices, one slightly above the ground, and a second ten feet off the ground. The devices are housed in small structures, called houses. In Grimes’ ad, one trap-shooting device is shown—no housing, and no second device across from it. At best, Grimes is informally shooting trap, which features only one target-launching device.

“By definition, it is not skeet,” said the manager of the shotgun division at a gun range in Kentucky, who didn’t want to be identified due to the political nature of this story. “Skeet has two houses: a high house and a low house. You shoot a high house target, a low house target… Where people get this confused is that they’ll misuse the terms.”

Further, as Grimes shouts “pull,” to indicate the release of the clay target, she closes one eye. Now this is disputed, but most skeet shooting professionals acknowledge that you want to have two eyes open while tracking the target. “No change you’ll ever make will benefit you more than this one,” Barry Greenberg of the National Skeet Shooting Association writes.

Despite the confusion on terminology, Grimes does appear to exercise solid technique with her shotgun. “Not bad on the form. She does follow through,” one veteran trap shooter told The Daily Beast, after viewing the ad. “It’s not great. But it’s good.”

Grimes' allies are rallying behind her ability to handle a firearm. After The Daily Beast published this story, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo testified that he knew "first-hand" that Grimes is "good with her gun." 

"I doubt Mitch McConnell even owns a gun or has ever hunted in his life," Stumbo said. “It is foolish for anyone to split hairs over what to call sport shooting. Shooting skeet, shooting trap or shooting clays are all the same where we come from. The fools that are drawing a distinction are deliberately attempting to provide cover for Mitch McConnell."