Gun-related headlines just won't quit: A child fatally shot a friend, another killed a range instructor, and one teacher accidentally fired a weapon while on school property. Yet that tragic news hasn't deterred political candidates from brandishing firearms in campaign advertisements ahead of this year's midterm elections.
In the most recent televised spot, Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes shoots a gun and says she disagrees with President Barack Obama's view on firearms. The president, whose approval rating remains low among Kentucky residents, has pushed unsuccessfully for more federal gun regulations in the wake of the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
"Mitch McConnell wants you to think I’m Barack Obama," Grimes says in the opening line of the ad titled "Skeet Shooting." "I'm not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal, and the EPA."
Grimes concludes with: "And Mitch, that's not how you hold a gun," referencing her opponent, who carried a rifle to the podium during his entrance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March. Grimes previously criticized the way McConnell held the firearm, tweeting at his campaign: "KY women do it better."
According to her campaign representatives, Grimes is focused on her current role as Kentucky secretary of state — that means creating jobs for families, growing the economy, and representing her state — and not solely on running a campaign against Obama, as McConnell has done.
When questioned about Grimes' gun ad, spokesperson Charly Norton told msnbc: "Alison is proud of Kentucky's long-held gun ownership, sporting, and hunting traditions."
The 30-second video began airing statewide in Kentucky on Monday.
McConnell, the Republican Senate Minority Leader, took the lead from Grimes by eight points in a poll earlier this month, after weeks of results that showed an essentially deadlocked race between the two Senate candidates. Recent RealClearPolitics polling data averages revealed similar findings in arguably the country's most closely watched Senate race.
McConnell's team has sought to depict Grimes as a staunch Obama supporter trying to destroy the coal industry, while Grimes tries to reiterate her belief that the minority leader is out of touch with the needs of fellow residents. The president's approval ratings in Kentucky continue to hover near 30%.
McConnell's campaign responded to Grimes' ad on Monday afternoon by tweeting a composite image of her and Obama separately firing guns. The text overlay says, "Obama's Kentucky candidate" and "Grimes = Obama."
Earlier this year, msnbc detailed several candidates — from both sides of the aisle — who have used their campaign ads to criticize Obama and his policies on gun control. There was Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, who fired her gun to show that she disapproves of "wasteful spending" and the Affordable Care Act. Todd Staples, the Texas commissioner of agriculture, brandished a long gun to threaten the president. The list continued with Matt Rosendale, Bob Quast, and John Stone, to name a few.
Some state lawmakers, however, are pushing for reform this year. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a sweeping gun measure into law last month that grants police chiefs the authority to prevent certain individuals from obtaining firearms licenses. But just last week, the Missouri Senate voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would permit certain educators to carry concealed weapons on school campuses.
Beginning as early as 2010, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia took "dead aim" at cap-and-trade legislation in a political ad to reveal his support for pro-coal legislation. Then, last year, Manchin co-authored a significant gun-safety measure, which ultimately failed to pass in Congress.
Grimes' campaign released the ad as Congress remains in a stalemate over tougher gun restrictions, more than a year after the Senate failed to pass a bipartisan background checks bill. The November midterms will be the first election cycle since 26 people were killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
On the grassroots level, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and other pro-reform gun groups are pushing for businesses to ban armed customers from their premises. The moms took their most recent request to America's food aisles with a petition and supplementary digital advertisements aimed against Kroger.