A Republican state senator and candidate for U.S. Senate from Iowa on Thursday said she doesn't think last week's fatal "accident" in California should interfere with Americans' Second Amendment rights.
State Sen. Joni Ernst points a gun and promises to take aim -- literally -- at wasteful government spending in a recent campaign video, titled "Shot." During a televised primary debate Thursday night, she said that, even in the wake of the shooting rampage at the University of California Santa Barbara, she will not remove her advertisement from appearing on television.
A viewer asked Ernst if the violent imagery she uses in her video has become the politics of the country.
"What happened in that shooting and that stabbing is an absolute tragedy," Ernst said. "However, I remain firm in my commitment to the Second Amendment. I have been endorsed by the [National Rifle Association] in this race, and again, just because of a horrible, horrible tragedy, I don't believe we should be infringing upon people's Second Amendment rights."
"This unfortunate accident happened after the ad, but it does highlight that I want to get rid of, repeal, and replace Bruce Braley's Obamacare," she added, referencing her Democratic opponent. "And it also shows that I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. That is our fundamental right."
Derek Flowers, spokesperson for Ernst, published a post to Twitter after the debate, saying the consequent "politicizing" by Democrats is "shameful."
"As she said when she first answered the question, Joni believes that this was an absolute tragedy. It's outrageous that Democrats are politicizing and playing gotcha politics with this tragedy," he wrote.
Democrats also took to Twitter to respond to Ernst's comments. Dave O'Brien, an Iowa attorney running for Congress, wrote in a tweet that he "won't dismiss a terrible tragedy as an 'accident.'"
A gunman shot and killed six individuals and himself during a rampage last Saturday at the University of California Santa Barbara. The tragedy was one more incident among the growing list of shootings in the country, from Newtown, Conn. and Washington, D.C., to Aurora, Colorado and Tucson, Arizona.
But Ernst is not alone in firing a gun at the government in a campaign ad. Fellow Iowa Senate hopeful Bob Quast proclaims his dedication to gun rights by appearing with his Glock pistol in a video that put him on the political radar. Republican Montana House candidate Matt Rosendale released an ad where he fires a gun against the government's use of drone strikes to fight terrorism. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas packed heat in their ads, too.
Ernst is one of five Republicans vying for the seat currently held by longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Their opponents include Braley and Quast, an independent. Iowa is considered a swing state, but President Barack Obama carried it twice. Winning the seat could help Republicans take back the Senate later this year.
The Iowa Senate primary is set for June 3.