"I feel like I've died and gone to heaven," the Republican candidate for governor said as he walked in.
At the counter, among the firearms and mounted animal heads at Outdoor Sportsman in Stockton, the Twin Peaks assemblyman handled a 12-gauge shotgun and admired an antique rifle.
"Oh, my God," he said.
Donnelly lingered at the counter, and he shook his head when he saw a customer filling out paperwork required to buy a gun in California.
"That's what you ought to be filming," the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights advocate told his videographer. "Look at all the paperwork you've got to do to exercise your Second Amendment rights."
It wasn't until Donnelly introduced himself to the store owner, Eric Johnston, that the candidate's own history with guns came up. Donnelly pleaded no contest in 2012 to two misdemeanor gun charges related to the discovery of a loaded firearm in his carry-on bag at Ontario International Airport.
Donnelly, who has said he forgot the gun was in his bag, told Johnston that all the press surrounding that incident may be beneficial.
"If you're a single-issue voter on the gun issue," Donnelly said, "you have now had my message communicated to you very effectively."
PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly visits the Outdoor Sportsman store in Stockton on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders