Pistol-Packin' Pols

Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently shot a coyote while jogging. From Dick Cheney to Aaron Burr to Sarah Palin, VIEW OUR GALLERY of political hunters, duelers, and gunslingers.

Tom Pennington / Getty Images,Tom Pennington

Tom Pennington / Getty Images

Rick Perry

Water bottle? Check. iPod? Check. Laser-sighted .380 Ruger pistol loaded with hollow-point bullets? Check. It seems Texas’ outspoken governor, Rick Perry, has different requirements for his daily jog than most folks. On Tuesday, Perry revealed to the Associated Press that he went out on a run recently and ended up gunning down a coyote that he claimed was menacing his daughter’s dog. Perry set up the scene: "I'm enjoying the run when something catches my eye and it's this coyote. I know he knows I'm there. He never looks at me, he is laser-locked on that dog," the governor told the AP. "I holler and the coyote stopped. I holler again. By this time I had taken my weapon out and charged it. It is now staring dead at me. Either me or the dog are in imminent danger. I did the appropriate thing and sent it to where coyotes go," he said. Perry has a concealed weapons permit. He said the laser allowed him to make a clean kill and the animal didn’t suffer.

David Bohrer, White House / AP Photo

Dick Cheney

While the coyote kill may boost Rick Perry’s macho credentials, perhaps no Texas shooting solidified an elected official’s reputation as when Vice President Dick Cheney fired birdshot into the face of a supporter and fundraiser, 78-year-old attorney Harry Whittington. In February 2006, the pair was taking part in a quail-hunting party at a South Texas ranch. Whittington surprised Cheney, who accidentally let fire. Whittington ended up in the hospital but recovered from his wounds. Upon release from the hospital, Whittington apologized for all the trouble he had caused for being shot in the face. “My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney had to go through this past week,” he said, adding “[W]e hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves."

Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo

John Kerry

During the 2004 campaign, John Kerry was lampooned as an out-of-touch Yankee. An advertisement featuring Kerry wind-sailing all but proved that he lacked in the manly man department, unlike his opponent President George W. Bush.  Kerry decided to fire back. With days left in the campaign, he traveled to Girard, Ohio to go goose hunting. According to reports, the camouflaged candidate hit one bird. He emerged for the cameras from a field toting a 12-gauge shotgun. The Massachusetts senator let someone else carried the goose. “I’m too lazy,” he said. Kerry still took flak from gun-rights activists. "If John Kerry thinks the Second Amendment is about photo ops, he's daffy," said one ad which ran in a local newspaper.

Pfc. Christopher Grammer / U.S. Army

Sarah Palin

An avid hunter, Alaska’s former governor Sarah Palin first learned to fire a gun at her father’s side. In one memorable scene in her memoir Going Rogue, Palin describes her father placing moose eyeballs—“still warm from the critter’s head”—in the palm of her hand. She winced. “He realized that even though he had raised me to be a solid hunting buddy, I had my limits,” Palin writes. What exactly remained within those limits angered opponents during the 2008 presidential campaign. Palin got in a tussle with actress Ashley Judd and other animal-rights activists who challenged Alaska’s support for the aerial hunting of wolves. Palin defended the practice, saying firing from airplanes and helicopters kept the predators’ numbers down and protected caribou and moose populations.

Edward Van Altena / Library of Congress

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt secured his place in the American imagination with his love of hunting. His trips to Africa fighting big game became the stuff of legend. In 1886, Roosevelt published “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman,” detailing “sport on the northern cattle plains.” Ever the gentle sportsman, Roosevelt once supposedly refused to shoot a bear, specially arranged for his killing, in 1902. His kindness led to the stuffed animal’s renaming, now known as the “teddy bear.”

Ed Clark, Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Dwight Eisenhower

As a general, Ike knew his way around a gun. But his proclivity for hunting became a political hot potato when his Democratic opponent in the 1956 presidential campaign, Adlai Stevenson, released a television ad which accused the president of going quail hunting during an international crisis. “The presidency requires leadership not buck passing,” vice presidential candidate Estes Kefauver warned. But Eisenhower is remembered for telling the U.S. government to put down its guns. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” he famously said in a 1953 address.

Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

Clint Eastwood

The world may know him as Dirty Harry, but to the few thousand residents of Carmel, California, Clint Eastwood still goes by Mayor. In the late 1980s, the Oscar-winner earned 72 percent of the town’s vote. His Honor has trumpeted his success in improving the town during his two-year stint in the corner office by rebuilding the library and fixing walkways at the beach. Eastwood's time as mayor made him a leading man in a picture that has played in California throughout the decades: on-screen gunslinger turned real-life bureaucrat battler.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Aaron Burr

At least Dick Cheney didn’t kill the guy. Aaron Burr was the nation’s third vice president, a senator from New York, but he has gone down in history as America’s most famous dueler. In July 1804, he and political rival Alexander Hamilton paddled over to Weehawken, New Jersey to exchange the final charges of a decades-long fight. The pair carried .56-caliber duel pistols. They both fired one shot. Burr was the only one to boat back under his own strength. Charged with murder, Burr saw his political future sink from that day forward.

Universal Pictures / Everett Collection

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger may be the most outlandish gun-toting movie star to bring his explosive personality to the American political scene. But the hero of high-caliber movies such as Commando and Terminator is also a Kennedy—by marriage—so perhaps his union of firepower and political prowess is not so strange after all. The former Austrian bodybuilder felt he had to distance himself from the criminals and toughs that he plays on screen to run for office in California. “I don't run around every day with a gun in my hand,” he said in 2003. “So I want kids to understand the difference; one is make believe, like we do in the movies. But in reality, I'm for gun control. I'm a peace-loving guy."

George Washington

Like Ike, George Washington was a military man whose pluck won him the public’s heart. According to his estate, Washington was partial to his holster style, flintlock pistol. America’s first president had a taste for fashion when it came to his sidearm, ordering his pistol covers from a London designer, requesting that they be “in the newest taste & handsome.”

Murray Garrett / Getty Images

Ronald Reagan

As a candidate, Ronald Reagan was able to attract Democrats to the Republican side with his law-and-order bona fides. As an actor, he starred in several Westerns, including 1953’s Law and Order as marshal Frame Johnson. A decade earlier, Reagan joined Lionel Barrymore to play the rancher Gil Jones in The Bad Man. Like Teddy Roosevelt before him, Reagan’s cowboy ethos, brought to life in Hollywood shoot-’em-ups, loomed large in his electoral success.

The Illustrated American

Andrew Jackson

While the Burr-Hamilton duel has gone down in American infamy, Aaron Burr was not the only man who walked the nation’s halls of power to take a shot at a rival or two. During the course of his rise to the presidency, Andrew Jackson burnished his frontiersman reputation by challenging opponents to duels. In 1806, Old Hickory killed a young lawyer, Charles Dickinson, over a gambling dispute. On the Tennessee field where he met Dickinson, Jackson nearly lost his life. “The ball that Charles Dickinson shot into Jackson, it was only about an inch or two from his heart,” historian Paul Clements has said. “Clearly, it was a matter of inches that American history unfolded the way it did.”