New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not giving up on supporting the passage of a gun control bill. But it seems like he may have hit a very sensitive spot Friday in his latest attack ad on Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
In a new ad campaign by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition co-founded by Bloomberg, Angela Bradford-Barnes, former chief financial officer for the Arkansas Democratic Party, said her friend was shot and killed and that Pryor’s vote left her “disappointed.” Pryor was one of four Democrats to vote against a bill that would have expanded background checks.
Since the gun bill failed to advance in the Senate, Bloomberg and other gun control advocates have been aggressively campaigning to try and get lawmakers to change their votes.
In the ad, Bradford-Barnes said she didn’t blame guns for her friend’s death but, rather, the system that made it easy for criminals and the mentally ill to get their hands on firearms. News reports say the ad, which cost $350,000, is expected to run for the next two weeks statewide.
“That’s why I was so disappointed when Mark Pryor voted against comprehensive background checks,” she said in the ad. “On that vote he let us down. Tell Mark Pryor to take another look at background checks because we are tired of being disappointed.”
Though the name of the deceased was not mentioned in the ad, Pryor later released a statement, calling it “disgusting.” The senator also revealed the name of the deceased, Bill Gwatney, and said the mayor didn’t know him. Gwatney, who was chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, was killed in 2008.
“I knew Bill Gwatney,” Pryor’s statement read. “He was my friend and he was killed by someone with severe mental health issues.”
Pryor continued to condemn the ad, saying the Senate bill wouldn’t have done anything to prevent Gwatney’s death because it didn’t sufficiently tackle the mental health problem. The senator, who faces re-election next year, said mental health is the “real issue and common thread in all of these shootings.” Pryor explained that is why he voted for other legislation that would strengthen funding for mental health and require such records to the background checks system.
“Mayor Bloomberg’s attack ad politicizes the death of my friend by misleading people into thinking that his bill would have prevented Bill Gwatney’s tragic death,” Pryor stated. “The fact is it wouldn’t have, which makes Mayor Bloomberg’s ad even more disgusting.”