Congressional candidate shoots down drone with hunting rifle in new ad

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

Montana congressional candidate Matt Rosendale swears he doesn’t have a problem with drones.

“I actually consider myself to be very supportive of technology,” Rosendale told Yahoo News in an interview on Tuesday.

Still, the question had to be asked after Rosendale on Monday released a new campaign ad in which he used a hunting rifle to shoot down a drone.

The ad opens with an overhead camera angle, with the drone menacingly hovering over the state senator.

“I’m Matt Rosendale and this is how I'd look from a government drone,” the candidate says as he’s framed dead to rights in a digital set of crosshairs.

“And this is what I think about it,” Rosendale says as the camera cuts to him cocking and firing a rifle. The camera switches back to the drone pilot’s point of view, with text reading “SIGNAL LOST,” after the simulated gunshot impact shatters the drone’s lens.

Rosendale, a rancher by trade, is currently running against four other Republicans in a primary contest to replace outgoing Rep. Steve Daines, who is running for the U.S. Senate. He said he came up for the idea with his campaign team after a discussion about which issues he should focus on.

In February, Congress approved a new budget for the Federal Aviation Administration that makes it easier for government agencies and private companies to use drone technology. In 2015, companies can begin using drones for commercial purposes after a federal ban on the practice expires.

The ad is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but Rosendale does use the moment to outline a limited-government approach to privacy issues that he thinks appeals across the political spectrum.

“Spying on our citizens,” he says at the end of the ad; “that’s just wrong.”

Rosendale’s campaign said they used a real drone to film the ad, but that the candidate did not actually shoot it down. That was probably a wise move, seeing as Popular Science found that shooting down recreational drones “takes good aim and many shots,” even by their team of experienced marksmen.

In 2013, Rosendale helped push legislation in the Montana legislature that sought to block the federal government from using drones for domestic surveillance in Montana. Three other states, Texas, Virginia and Idaho, have pursued similar legislation.

One could view Rosendale’s ad as just part of a larger trend of political candidates, seemingly all Republican, releasing ads in which they literally use a gun to make a political point. But it's almost certainly the first campaign ad to target a drone.

But for Rosendale, a self-described “true conservative,” the message he’s pushing is one that he says has a bipartisan reach: the issue of privacy in the digital era.

“When technology makes our lives and businesses more efficient, I think that’s great,” he says. “But it depends on for what purpose. Right now, we’re seeing an overreach in nearly all aspects of our lives.”

Follow Eric Pfeiffer on Twitter (@ericpfeiffer)