- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said she would not politicize the sniper attacks in metropolitan Washington but refused to call off a political action committee's TV ad attacking Republican nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on guns.
"I think they are making their own decisions based on what they believe and what they feel passionate about," the lieutenant governor said of plans by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to step up the ad campaign in the wake of the shooting spree.
Mrs. Townsend said gun control is a "big issue" separating Mr. Ehrlich and herself, and she shares the Brady Campaign's commitment to "common sense" gun laws. She said she would not interfere with its decision to run more TV ads.
The 30-second ad, which is being aired in prime time on cable channels in Montgomery County, includes images of a hooded man firing assault weapons, a hand cocking a semiautomatic pistol, chalk outlines of bodies at crime scenes and the face of a young girl. A male announcer says: "Tell Bob Ehrlich to stop siding with gun-lobby extremists who threaten our neighbors."
The Brady Campaign did not return calls seeking comment.
The Brady Campaign ad, financed in part by the Million Mom March, is not the only attack ad paid for by independent groups supporting Mrs. Townsend:
A black ministerial association in Baltimore has aired ads attacking the congressman on guns.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees airs ads criticizing Mr. Ehrlich for opposing the minimum wage.
The Maryland State Teachers Association runs radio spots promoting Mrs. Townsend over Mr. Ehrlich.
The Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters air a radio ad that says Mr. Ehrlich's stances on health care and environmental issues are "hazardous to your health."
The Ehrlich campaign has received virtually no assistance from independent groups producing ads against Mrs. Townsend.
Mr. Ehrlich said yesterday he doesn't think the attack ads were helping Mrs. Townsend because today's savvy voters see through negative political campaigns.
"It's not just trashing your opponent. It's not getting your flunkies and your allies to run 30-second attack ads. People aren't buying it," Mr. Ehrlich told reporters at a news conference in Annapolis.
He said Mrs. Townsend risked a backlash from voters offended by ads that appeared to exploit the sniper attacks. "A candidate or candidacy that wishes to cross the line and take advantage of a major human tragedy does it at her risk," he said.
The Brady Campaign ad opens with the image of an ambulance and the sound of gunshots. It cuts to a picture of Mr. Ehrlich. "Bob Ehrlich is dead wrong," says the male announcer in a voice-over. "Uzis and AK-47s don't belong in our community," he says to footage shot outside Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., during the 1999 shooting rampage.
As a montage of handguns and crime scenes flash on the screen, the announcer says: "In Congress, Bob Ehrlich voted to put dangerous assault weapons back on our streets. Now he is criticizing a Maryland law that helps police catch violent gun criminals and even wants cheap Saturday night specials to be sold."
Mr. Ehrlich said the sniper attacks should not be used as an excuse to debate gun control.
"This is about crime. It's about gun crime," Mr. Ehrlich said. "We are the third most violent state in the country prior to these events. Obviously, what we have been doing in this state has not been working real well."

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