Libertarian nominee accepts rival’s gift of Washington replica pistol – then trashes it

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

A sentimental gesture made by one presidential candidate to another backfired this weekend following a contentious and drama-filled Libertarian Party convention.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who scored the party’s nomination, was gifted a replica Sunday of George Washington’s flintlock pistol by runner-up Austin Petersen.

Tearing up at the close of the Florida convention, Petersen presented Johnson with the pistol as a symbol of party unity.

“You have my sword, and you have my gun,” he said, as the nominee accepted the gift.

But then, Johnson unceremoniously chucked it in the garbage can.

Cue sadness.

The slight apparently was witnessed by several delegates, whose accounts soon popped up on social media and blogs.

Both Johnson and Petersen later acknowledged this happened. Petersen voiced surprise at Johnson's actions.

“It’s a very prized possession of mine,” Petersen told, when reached for comment on Wednesday.

Johnson, though, apparently had his reasons.

“Governor Johnson was frustrated. That’s why he tossed the gun,” Joe Hunter, communications director for the Johnson campaign, told Wednesday. “He wishes he hadn’t. He’s sorry he did it and that it has become an issue.”

Hunter explained that Petersen, after giving Johnson the pistol, almost immediately started slamming Johnson’s vice presidential pick, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld.

“That was very frustrating to Governor Johnson,” Hunter said. “And what he did with the gun was pure frustration.”

Weld was a subject of intense debate at the convention. Johnson, who won the Libertarian Party’s nomination for a second straight election cycle, had to hustle to get the party to unite behind Weld as his running mate.

Even then, Weld’s nomination was met with a mixed chorus of cheers and jeers from the rowdy crowd. Many in the party’s ideological base had argued Weld's positions on foreign policy and gun control were out of step with theirs.

It’s no secret that Petersen was among those knocking Weld.

Still, he said Wednesday, “You don’t expect to get slighted like that.”

“It was a symbolic gesture of solidarity and respect,” he told, referring to the pistol gift. “Kind of like, here’s the head of the troll I slayed.”

Petersen said he purchased two replicas of the George Washington pistol years ago. He gave away one and kept the other, until giving (or trying to give) that one to Johnson at the convention.

In a video shot right before Petersen presented Johnson the pistol, he described the significance.

“This means I’m going to go to battle for him,” Petersen said. “So, if Governor Johnson needs anything from me, if he needs any help, if he wants me to go out there and do battle for him, I’ll do it. … The revolution continues.”

The story has a somewhat-happy ending. Petersen is now back in possession of the prized pistol, after onlookers retrieved it and sent it back to him.

He seems willing to forgive and forget, or at least move on.

“It’s important when you are defeated that you are humble, gracious and kind,” he said. “So I have endorsed [Johnson]. I want him to do well and the party to grow.”

Petersen is a former associate producer for Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show, “Freedom Watch” on the Fox Business Network, which is owned by the same parent company as