HELENA — A Republican Montana state legislator said Wednesday he was talking about weapons of the mind in an online discussion with a tea party leader about stocking up on "ammo" to "attack" socialists.
Rep. James Knox, of Billings, raised some eyebrows with a recent conversation on Facebook.
Knox wrote that he wakes up early with a desire to "attack socialists!!!." The conservative first-term lawmaker goes on to ask a Billings tea party leader for some "ammo."
Knox said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday that he was not talking about bullets.
"The mind is a weapon too," he said about the Facebook conversation.
Knox said the reference was more about "confronting or attacking socialism" and he would not "placate" to the criticism of his comments. The lawmaker, who still represents Billings, said he has taken a job in Texas that did not allow him to hold a telephone interview during daytime hours.
A Democratic Party spokesman said the threats were irresponsible, especially in the wake of violent events like the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Party Spokesman Chris Saeger said Republicans are too prone to engage in "scary rhetoric."
"It's irresponsible behavior for any leader to make threats like these," Saeger said of Knox. "It's a dangerous new direction for the Republican party. The people of Montana need leaders that will work with their opposition, not bully and threaten them."
Republicans point out Democrats make social media gaffes of their own.
Earlier in the year, a Democratic lawmaker from Missoula was angered by Havre Republican Rep. Kris Hansen's efforts to trump a Missoula city pro-gay rights ordinance with a new state law. Rep. Ellie Hill, the Democrat, warned about the "grassroot" organizational power of her town.
"Your days are numbered, Rep. Hansen. It's on," read the Twitter post from Hill, the Democrat.
Hill said she was talking about Hansen's political career, not her life.
"Oh come on. If all they can do is compare my remark about the future of someone's political career to crazy talk about shooting people, then they have more work to do," Hill said.