LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor pushed back Thursday against gun control advocates, using the first ad of his Arkansas re-election bid to defend his vote against expanded background checks for firearms purchases.
Pryor’s campaign said the 30-second spot will begin airing throughout Arkansas on Friday, more than 17 months before the election. It comes as the two-term Democratic lawmaker already faces an expensive television blitz from groups on the right and left.
In the spot, Pryor defends his vote against an expanded background checks measure that failed in the Senate earlier this year. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group co-founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been running television ads in Arkansas criticizing Pryor for the vote.
“The mayor of New York City is running ads against me because I opposed President Obama’s gun control legislation. Nothing in the Obama plan would have prevented tragedies like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson or even Jonesboro,” Pryor says in the ad. “I’m committed to finding real solutions to gun violence while protecting our Second Amendment rights.”
At the end of the ad, Pryor says: “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do. I listen to Arkansas.”
Pryor is the only Democrat in Washington from Arkansas, a state that has turned increasingly Republican in recent elections. Though he doesn’t yet have an opponent, he’s widely viewed by Republicans as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election next year.
The ad is not the first time Pryor has pushed back against Bloomberg’s group, which aired TV spots before the Senate vote that urged Pryor to support the expanded background checks measure. The director of the group earlier this month said it planned to air radio ads and send out direct mail pieces on Pryor’s vote, with a focus on African-American voters.
Pryor last week called Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ TV ad, which invoked the 2008 shooting death of the state’s Democratic party chairman, “disgusting.”
The group on Thursday accused Pryor of hypocrisy, citing its own polling on background checks in Arkansas and the amount of money it says the lawmaker has raised from New York donors since 2005.
“Mark Pryor had no problem listening to New Yorkers when he scooped up over a quarter of a million dollars for his campaigns from New York donors,” John Feinblatt, chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Bloomberg’s chief policy advisor, said in a statement issued by the group. “It’s time for Senator Pryor to stop the hypocrisy and explain why he voted against a background check bill that 84 percent of Arkansans support.”
Pryor has said a competing gun control measure he supported that also failed in the Senate would have done more to combat gun violence. That measure, sponsored by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, included stricter penalties for “straw purchases” where someone legally buys a gun for a criminal or a person barred from owning one.
Pryor released the ad the day after a Virginia-based Republican group, Senate Conservatives Action, began airing television ads calling the incumbent lawmaker too liberal and criticizing his vote for the federal health care law. The conservative Club for Growth also has run TV ads in the state targeting Pryor.
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