“Guns save lives,” Matthew Lee, a volunteer for Newt Gingrich, defiantly tells people at a Tennessee gun show, which is also a key political event in the Republican primary campaign.
In states such as Tennessee and Georgia, where voters head to the polls for “Super Tuesday” primaries, the Republican contenders seeking to unseat Democrat Barack Obama are wooing voters at religious gatherings and gun shows.
One such event held Saturday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, saw locals gather to look at shotguns, rifles, revolvers, automatic weapons and other weaponry — amid the backdrop of frenzied campaigning for November’s general election.
Lee, 42, who was handing out flyers for Gingrich, told people at the Tennessee Valley Sportsmen Gun Show his favored candidate believes in the constitution’s second amendment — the right to bear arms.
“It is a unique right that we have in this country thanks to the freedom of the people living in this country,” he said at theAlhambra Shrine Masonic Temple, the event’s venue.
“Gingrich is the candidate who will improve the economy and will succeed in reducing public spending, reduce the price of gas, and is the candidate who will restore morality in America.”
Herman Cain, a former Republican candidate who dropped out of the race earlier this year, was also at the show campaigning for Gingrich, and for gun owners’ rights.
“I’m in this gun show because I’m a big supporter of the second amendment, I don’t believe in watering it down,” he said.
“And secondly I’m here to spread the word than I’m supporting Newt Gingrich.”
Even though Gingrich has been trailing in the polls, “there are lots of people that haven’t decided yet… I think Newt could do very well here.”
In events such as these, hardline Republicans make their pitch to show their commitment to the party’s values, which often means freedom to carry weapons.
Polls show Rick Santorum, seen as a strong Christian conservative, leading in Tennessee with between 38 and 40 percent of the vote, with frontrunner Mitt Romney favored by only 19 to 20 percent.
Gingrich, who leads in his home state of Georgia, is third with around 13 percent in Tennessee.
Marcy Williams, one of the gun show attendees, said she and her husband had been backing Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican congressman who is running fourth in the race.
“But we have to decide for another candidate because we know he’s not going make it, it’s sad,” she said. “On Tuesday we’ll vote, we are not sure yet, but will be between Santorum and Gingrich.”
But not all the gun lovers were Republicans. Chris Willis, who came to the gun show with his eight-year-old son, said he will vote Democrat.
“I know I’m kind of an outsider here,” he said.
“I have three weapons at home, I believe in this right and I like the Obama presidency, I don’t see any contradiction at all. Nor do I believe that religion has to be a determining factor when choosing a candidate.”
But David Chadwick said Gingrich “is the only politician with Christian ideals who is able to restore morality in the country.”
At a Republican meeting in nearby Lawrenceville, Georgia, Bruce Greenfield, said his group, appropriately named Georgia Carry, will work to elect a president who fights for the right to carry guns.
“It’s true that guns save lives, because they give you the power to defend yourselves from criminals,” he said.
“Personally, I’ll vote for Gingrich. He’s somebody that in Georgia we know pretty well and has been a great politician. He is the guy that can fix the economy in America.”