Anti-Gun Group Declares Victory After Brushback Pitch At Heitkamp

January 8, 2013 10:11 a.m.

Chalk one up for the gun control crowd? A spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said Tuesday that his group had scared freshman Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) off of her tough criticism of the White House gun violence task force.

The group ran newspaper ads on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. and North Dakota, two days after Heitkamp went on television to express serious concerns about gun control ideas the White House was reportedly considering in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. school massacre. A spokesman for the group said the ads worked.

“She got the message,” Ladd Everitt, spokesperson for the CSGV, told TPM. He said the 48 hours since Heitkamp went on TV showcase a new, more aggressive tactic by gun control advocates to push politicians to back its agenda.Heitkamp appeared Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” and responded to a weekend report in the Washington Post about the White House gun violence task force led by Vice President Biden. The story said the administration was “seriously considering” certain proposals, including a national gun owner’s database and the closure of the so-called “gun show loophole.” (Nothing has been finalized from the Biden task force yet, and the White House has long said it favors a holistic approach to curbing gun violence that includes mental health and even the discussion of violence in culture.)

Heitkamp, who has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, told This Week the article concerned her.

“I think you need to put everything on the table, but what I hear from the administration — and if the Washington Post is to be believed — that’s way, way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about,” she said. “And it’s not going to pass.”

That perked up ears at the CSGV, which wants new gun laws passed in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting. The group ran a series of ads Tuesday calling Heitkamp out for criticizing the president’s plan.

“Shame on you, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) for telling the country on Sunday that the Obama Administration’s response to Newtown — which may include universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines — is ‘extreme,'” the ads read.

Everitt said the ads show a more aggressive gun control community that has the clout and the momentum to take on politicians who oppose it, much in the way the National Rifle Association does against politicians who have expressed interest in new gun regulations. And, he says, the ads got results. Moving forward, Everitt said, a lot more politicians can expect the Heitkamp treatment if they take on gun control.

“The era of no accountability is over,” he said.

After the ads ran, Heitkamp’s office released a statement on Tuesday clarifying the senator’s words. The full text:

“Senator Heitkamp believes that Americans have a right to bear arms. But with that right, come responsibilities. And we have a responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, while protecting the rights of law abiding gun owners. Senator Heitkamp also believes that the problem of violence in America must be dealt with in a multifaceted way. While every option must be considered there is no one single answer. The discussion and ultimate solution to these mass violence tragedies must go beyond a singular focus on gun laws, and that the discussion must examine mental health, school security, and community development to help parents identify and address children potentially suffering from mental illness. Senator Heitkamp has clearly stated that all options must be on the table when it comes to addressing gun violence in America.”

Everitt said his group is “happy” with the statement, and that it proves the ads had an effect. “We liked it,” he told TPM. “We were happy to see more moderation there.”

Heitkamp’s office doesn’t see things the same way. “Senator Heitkamp’s position has not changed, nor shifted,” Heitkamp spokesperson Whitney Phillips told TPM.

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