- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gabrielle Giffords‘ gun control group has made its first foray into the midterm campaigns, launching a TV ad to boost Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, her handpicked successor who is locked in a tight race in Ms. Giffords‘ old southern Arizona congressional district.

The 30-second spot that first aired Friday blasted Mr. Barber’s scrappy Republican foe, former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Martha McSally, for not supporting efforts to close the so-called “gun show loophole” that can allow firearms purchasers to avoid background checks.

It’s the first TV ad this election cycle from Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC and promises to reignite the gun control debate in a district still reeling from the 2011 shooting spree in Tucson that left six dead and 13 wounded, including Ms. Giffords and Mr. Barber.

The crazed gunman who targeted Ms. Giffords at a district event in front of a Tucson supermarket, shot her in the head. Mr. Barber was shot in the leg and in the face.

The emotionally charged ad features a middle-aged women who is identified as Carol of Tucson.

“My daughter was murdered with a gun, by a man with a criminal record. He bought the gun at a gun show without a background check. No questions asked,” she says, speaking directly into the camera.

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Martha McSally supports the gun show loophole. McSally got a lot of money from the lobbyists who also support the gun show loophole,” she says. “To McSally, it’s just politics. To me, it’s personal.”

Chad Willems, a Republican political strategist who runs the Summit Consulting Group in Phoenix, called the ad “well done” and cleverly put together to help Mr. Barber, but he doubted the damage done to Ms. McSally would be long lasting.

“If they are successful in changing the issue to talk about the gun show loophole and mentally ill people getting firearms, then I think Barber will prevail,” he said. “But I think that the electorate is smarter than that. It might be a short-term gain for them but in the long term I think Barber is going to be on defense, just by virtue of being of the same party as this president.”

The ad provides Mr. Barber a welcome opportunity to put his opponent on the defensive. Like most Democratic candidates this year, Mr. Barber has been the one playing defense most of the time, struggling to distance himself from an increasingly unpopular President Obama.

Mr. Barber, who served as Ms. Giffords‘ aid before winning her seat when she resigned after the shooting, faces a particularly tough re-election race. Real Clear Politics rated it as the sixth most likely House seat to switch parties in the midterms.

Ms. McSally is considered one of the GOP’s top House candidates this election cycle. She’s a former Air Force colonel and the first woman to fly a fighter jet in combat, which are prized attributes in a congressional district that includes Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The fighter jet that she flew, the A-10 Warthog, is built in the district.

She has run against Mr. Barber twice before, in the special election after Ms. Giffords resigned and in the 2012 election for a full term, when she lost by less than 1 percentage point, 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.

Mr. Barber’s recent campaign moves include highlighting support for him among Republicans and painting Ms. McSally as a “right-wing extremist.”

Asked about the ad, the Barber campaign echoed Ms. Giffords‘ message.

Ron Barber supports the same commonsense, bipartisan solutions that Southern Arizona supports — it’s too bad that Martha McSally takes the side of lobbyists and Republicans in Congress instead of doing what’s best for Southern Arizona families,” Barber campaign spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn said.

McSally campaign spokesman Patrick Ptak handled the issue gingerly.

“While we may have legitimate differences of opinion about how to best reduce violence and keep Arizonans safe, we all can agree that we need to do more to prevent tragedies in our communities,” he said. “Martha believes we need to enforce those laws already on the books and place a greater emphasis on the cause of gun violence by addressing our broken mental health care system and enhancing our ability to recognize and treat signs of mental illness.”

Ms. Giffords and her husband, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly formed Americans for Responsible Solutions in 2013 to promote gun control measures.

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