A group called “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” is out with a new TV ad today which steps up their criticism of Sen. Mark Pryor (D) for his vote against the failed Manchin-Toomey gun background check bill.
The latest ad features Angela Bradford-Barnes, who was the chief financial officer of the Democratic Party of Arkansas from 2007 to 2012 – a period when then-DPA chairman Bill Gwatney was killed in a random act of gun violence.
“When my dear, innocent friend was shot to death, I didn’t blame guns. I blamed a system that makes it so terribly easy for criminals or the dangerous mentally ill to buy guns. That’s why I was so disappointed when Mark Pryor voted against comprehensive background checks. On that vote, he let us down,” says Bradford-Barnes in the ad.
“Gun violence has personally affected my life in a tremendous way. I have spent years working for Arkansas’ Democrats and was at work with Bill Gwatney the day he was senselessly taken from us,” said Bradford-Barnes in a press release. “The pain of that experience will always be a part of me. Like 84 percent of Arkansans I support universal background checks. Thus, I was heartbroken to see that Senator Pryor opposed the bi-partisan bill because it will save lives. This bill may not be perfect, and it cannot undue my tragic loss, but if it stops even one person from causing this pain to another family, it’s worth it. I hope that if Senator Pryor is given another chance to lead on this issue he thinks first about Arkansas voters like me.”
Politico reports the ad buy in Arkansas at roughly $350,000, which is substantial in the state’s media markets. It will begin airing today through next week on broadcast and cable stations statewide.
Pryor has defended his vote against Manchin-Toomey and claimed that his support for the Grassley amendment, which also failed in the Senate chamber last month, was more in line with Arkansas voters.
“I think on that vote, I’m right where Arkansas is,” Pryor said in a Wednesday interview on KASU 91.9 FM. “The vast majority of folks I’ve talked to in the last few weeks in Arkansas have come up and thanked me for my vote. The folks who are following this understand what I did and why.”
“Here’s the thing: I did vote to expand background checks. We had two background check bills on the floor that day,” Pryor added. “I think Grassley is where Arkansas is. Basically, what it does is eliminate the straw purchases, which are a problem, but it fixes our background check system we have on the books and it enforces the law we have on the books.”
Pryor said not all federal and state agencies are currently required to put background check data in the national system. He argued that Grassley fixed that as well as added definitions for mental health funding for the COPs program, which would add police officers in schools.
“You can read the Manchin-Toomey bill a dozen times and you know what? There’s not one thing in there that would have prevented Sandy Hook or Aurora or Tucson or Jonesboro. Nothing in that legislation that would have prevented those events,” said Pryor. “I think Grassley was a much better way to go.”
“Mayors Against Illegal Guns” is a coalition co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. It contends that the Grassley amendment would have weakened the background check system. You can view the TV ad below.
UPDATE: Sen. Pryor responded to the ad. In a statement released this afternoon, he said:
“New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg didn’t know Bill Gwatney. I knew Bill Gwatney. He was my friend and he was killed by someone with severe mental health issues. The Mayor’s bill would have done nothing to prevent his death because it fails to adequately address the real issue and common thread in all of these shootings — mental health.
“That’s why I voted for separate legislation that strengthens funding for mental health programs; requires states, courts, and agencies to report mental health records to the background check system; increases penalties for straw purchases; reauthorizes and funds the COPS program to improve safety in schools; holds the Department of Justice accountable by forcing them to prosecute cases where individuals tried to purchase firearms illegally; and conducts a study on violence in the media. This legislation would have done all of this while protecting people’s 2nd amendment rights.
“Mayor Bloomberg’s attack ad politicizes the death of my friend by misleading people into thinking that his bill would have prevented Bill Gwatney’s tragic death. The fact is it wouldn’t have, which makes Mayor Bloomberg’s ad even more disgusting.”
Candace Martin, spokesperson of the Democratic Party of Arkansas released the following statement regarding the ad from “Mayors Against Illegal Guns”:
“Bill Gwatney was a friend and inspiration to all Democrats. Not a day goes by that we don’t think about his tragic death and miss him. We don’t believe it is right for any organization to politicize this tragedy.”