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Published Jul. 6, 2010

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

HALLANDALE BEACH - Armed with handguns and AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, the members of the Southeast Broward Republican Club abandoned the usual community center for their club meeting this week, and gathered at a gun range where they fired bullets instead of political bombshells.

Though most of the targets of gunfire were standard gun-range fare - large silhouettes of a human figure - a few shooters used large color posters instead. They depicted a menacing figure, adorned in a kaffiyeh, the kind of headdress worn by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The person in the picture was holding a rocket-propelled grenade.

One of the shooters was Robert Lowry, a Republican candidate hoping to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Lowry's target had the letters "DWS" next to the silhouette head.

Lowry said he didn't know who wrote Wasserman Schultz's initials on his target, but said he knew they were there before he started shooting. He initially described it as a joke, but after answering several questions he said it was a mistake to use a target labeled "DWS."

The reasons for meeting at the gun range Tuesday, said club president Ed Napolitano, were to have fun, educate club members who were new to shooting - and send a political message.

"Why are we here? Because we're Republicans and we appreciate the fact that we have the right to bear arms," Napolitano said.

Jonathan Beeton, communications director for Wasserman Schultz, declined to comment.

Charles Zelden, a history and legal studies professor specializing in politics and voting at Nova Southeastern University, said Lowry's action would undoubtedly help Wasserman Schultz raise campaign money and make some Republicans question his judgment.

"Politically, it was foolish," he said.