HUDSON, N.H. -- When he ran for president in 2008, Mike Huckabee famously traveled around the country with Chuck Norris in tow as his unofficial bodyguard.
But as he gears up for his second White House run, the former Arkansas governor might consider acting as his own security detail.
After taking some target practice during a campaign-style stop at the Granite State Indoor Shooting Range and Gun Shop here on Saturday, a reporter asked Huckabee whether he carries a gun with him when he is out on the trail.
“Depends on where I am,” Huckabee responded.
“Are you today in New Hampshire?” the reporter replied.
“Oh, you never tell what you’re doing,” Huckabee said. “It’s ‘concealed carry.’ It’s not ‘announced carry.’”
Huckabee then asked jokingly whether the reporter would be afraid to follow up with another question, if she knew that he was carrying a gun.
“Let me show you this pattern one more time,” he said, pointing to the multi-holed target that he had just finished plastering with a Colt .45 and Glock 43 pistol.
Dressed in a sport coat, button-down dress shirt and slacks, Huckabee didn’t exactly look the part of a regular guy enjoying a casual Saturday morning at the gun range.
But the once and likely future Republican presidential contender proved himself to be a good shot. And he left no doubt about where he stands on the contentious issue of guns in American life.
After removing his protective ear and eye gear, Huckabee regaled the assembled media with anecdotes about all of the firearms that he has owned throughout his life, beginning with the Daisy Model BB gun that he acquired at the age of 5 and has kept ever since.
“It’s worth a lot more money now than it was then,” he said.
Huckabee noted that his wife, Janet, has a concealed carry permit like he does and that she is currently in the market for something “a little smaller in profile” than her current weapon of choice.
As he looked on at the mostly younger and urban-dwelling reporters who stood in front of him, the ever media-savvy Huckabee determined that some further explanation was in order.
“Many of us grew up not only in an era but also in a part of the country where firearm ownership was not something that was strange or unusual,” he said. “It’s a way of life. We also grew up with an understanding that firearms have to be handled carefully and responsibly.”
He said that he had long ago been instructed never to point a gun at something that he didn’t intend to shoot and never to shoot at something other than a target or an animal that he planned to eat.
“If you’re taught that, it’s as simple as understanding your basic colors or knowing how to count to five,” he said. “I assumed that everybody grew up like that, and as I grew older and traveled more, I realized there’s a lot of people who’d never handled a firearm and were afraid of it. I’m more afraid of the people who might have one when I don’t than I am afraid of the firearm.”
Huckabee said that the Second Amendment was not intended primarily to preserve hunting rights and described gun ownership as “the ultimate self-defense, not just against an individual, but against anyone who would try to take our liberty away.”
He then launched into an anecdote that he had heard about Japanese Combined Fleet commander Isoroku Yamamoto, who led the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Yamamoto was asked, ‘Why didn’t you keep going? Nothing to stop you. You had a clear path to the California coast. What made you stop?” Huckabee said in an exchange that he attributed to a post-World War II conversation about the Japanese fleet's post-Pearl Harbor movements. “And he said, ‘Because we knew in America people were armed in every home and every neighborhood, and we knew we were not prepared to fight the battle house to house and street by street, and we knew we could not afford to take that risk.’ I think that’s a pretty powerful story.”
Nonetheless, the breadth of knowledge and facility with firearms that Huckabee demonstrated on Saturday is the kind of skill set that could help his message resonate with gun owners who vote in Republican caucuses and primaries.
Huckabee is slated to announce his presidential intentions in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas, on May 5.
Federal election law precludes him from saying publicly that he is going to run until he is ready to make his candidacy official.
But it would be a strange endeavor to announce that he is not running in such a dramatic setting and after months of gearing up in earnest for his prospective bid.
Huckabee appeared to acknowledge that he was in on the joke when a reporter prodded him about whether he would compete seriously in the New Hampshire primary -- where he finished in a distant third place in 2008 -- “on the off chance” that he were to announce next month that he is indeed entering the race.
“I don’t know who my potential opponents would be if, in fact, I make that announcement on May 5,” Huckabee said with a literal wink and a smile. “I’m not writing New Hampshire off.”