Exactly a week ahead of the midterm elections, one pro-gun control group is reminding voters that Joni Ernst, Iowa's Republican Senate nominee, supports the federal loophole that allows convicted felons and domestic abusers to purchase firearms without background checks.
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Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS) -- the organization founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was critically wounded in a shooting outside of a Tucson supermarket in 2011 -- on Tuesday released a new advertisement, titled "Wrong."
"It's dangerous when a convicted felon or domestic abuser gets their hands on one. But Joni Ernst won't vote to close the loophole that lets some dangerous people still get guns," Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald says in the commercial. Under the current federal law, residents can purchase firearms at gun shows and online without first passing a background check.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) began endorsing Ernst ahead of the primary election in May when she first became her state's Republican nominee. She has been a lifetime member of the country's leading firearms organization, and maintains an "A" rating for her efforts in protecting the rights of gun owners. The gun lobby spent $3,467,347 on Ernst, according to text in the new video.
"She's wrong to put Washington money before Iowa common sense," Fitzgerald says.
Ernst, who is currently a state senator, first made headlines earlier this year with a campaign advertisement that depicted her taking literal aim with her gun against what she called President Barack Obama's "wasteful spending." Just last week, comments she made at a 2012 NRA rally reemerged in the national media. "I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from a government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important," Ernst previously said.
Ernst and Democratic nominee U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley are involved in arguably one of the country's most watched races. They will face off on Nov. 4 for the seat held for 30 years by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. The ad is set to run on broadcast and cable media through Election Day.
This year marks the first major election cycle since 26 people, including 20 first-graders, were shot to death in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. ARS previously released ads in eight other races around the country, including members of both parties in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, to gain support for tighter gun measures.
By Tuesday, more than one million Americans pledged to be "Gun Sense Voters" in the upcoming election, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. The results stem from the group's Gun Sense Voter campaign, launched earlier this year, that asked citizens to make a promise to curb violence. The pro-reform group endorsed state and federal candidates who affirmed efforts in working to close the loophole in the background checks system.
Everytown also spent $4 million on Washington's Initiative 594, which will appear on the state's ballot next week. If passed by residents, the policy will require criminal background checks on all firearms sales and transfers in Washington, including at gun shows and on the Internet.
"When it comes to gun violence prevention this Election Day, the Washington that matters most is Washington State — the only place in the country where voters will cast an up-or-down vote on life-saving background checks," said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown. "We're building a base of voters who will support gun safety candidates and policies in this election and beyond."
Local chapters of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America also endorsed candidates at campaign stops around the country during the Gun Sense Voter roadshow. Members will continue to mobilize voters in the remaining days before the elections.
A gunman opened fire at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington last Friday, allegedly killing fellow schoolmate Zoe Galasso and critically wounding four others before turning the gun on himself. One of the victims, Gia Soriano, died from her injuries on Sunday. Local officials, including the police chief, called on the community and the entire country to make societal changes to prevent future mass shootings in the United States.
Federal lawmakers failed to pass a bipartisan background checks bill last year in the months following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But in May, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to boost funding for background checks. The Senate will likely consider its own version of the measure before conferencing with the House to produce a final piece of legislation later this year.
On Tuesday, at least two men suffered non-life threatening injuries after a shooter opened fire outside of a courthouse in North Carolina. Schools throughout the local district in Nashville were on lockdown until mid-afternoon as police searched for suspects.