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Pryor wears opposition to gun control as badge of honor

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., considered among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for reelection in 2014, released the first ad of his reelection campaign on Thursday, touting his vote against a recent gun control measure as evidence that he's looking out for Arkansans' interests.

The ad specifically mentioned New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, along with his group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), has become something of a gun control bogeyman among Second Amendment advocates. Bloomberg's group has been running ads against Pryor criticizing his vote against the gun control measure, which would have expanded background checks for gun buyers, and Pryor, in his own ad, wore Bloomberg's attacks as a badge of honor.

"The mayor of New York City is running ads against me because I opposed President Obama's gun control legislation," Pryor said, looking directly into the camera. "Nothing in the Obama plan would have prevented tragedies like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson or even Jonesboro. I'm committed to finding real solutions to gun violence while protecting our Second Amendment rights."

"No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do. I listen to Arkansas," he added.

Bloomberg's own ad featured a testimonial from Angela Bradford-Barnes, an Arkansan who witnessed the murder of state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney in 2008.

"When my dear innocent friend was shot to death, I didn't blame guns, I blamed a system that makes it so terribly easy for criminals or the dangerous mentally ill to buy guns," said Bradford-Barnes. "That's why I was so disappointed when Mark Pryor voted against comprehensive background checks. On that vote he let us down."

In a statement, Pryor called the ad against him "disgusting," explaining, "New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't know Bill Gwatney. I knew Bill Gwatney. He was my friend and he was killed by someone with severe mental health issues. The Mayor's bill would have done nothing to prevent his death because it fails to adequately address the real issue and common thread in all these shootings - mental health. That's why I voted for separate legislation that strengthens funding for mental health programs."

While Bloomberg's group had previously targeted Republican senators who voted against the background check proposal, like Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., the salvo directed at Pryor marks the first time that a Democrat has been on the receiving end of criticism from MAIG.

John Feinblatt, chairman of Bloomberg's group, said, "Mark Pryor had no problem listening to New Yorkers when he scooped up over a quarter of a million dollars for his campaigns from New York donors. It's time for Senator Pryor to stop the hypocrisy and explain why he voted against a background check bill that 84% of Arkansans support."

The 84 percent figure was derived from a poll conducted by Democratic polling firm Douglas Schoen LLC on behalf of MAIG.

On Saturday, Pryor will hold a "Sportsmen Town Hall" in Little Rock, Ark. MAIG has said they will send survivors of gun violence, possibly one from the December massacre in Newtown, Conn., that galvanized the recent push to strengthen gun laws, to ask Pryor to reconsider his vote against the background check proposal.

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