WASHINGTON — Stewart Mills shot first.
The 8th District Republican released a new campaign ad on Wesdnesday highlighting his support for gun rights and saying his opponent, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, is among the ranks of politicians who “have no respect for the 2nd Amendment.”
Mills’ ad, and an accompanying website, revolve around the National Rifle Association’s failing grade for Nolan on gun issues. Mills promised to “defend the 2nd amendment always.”
In a statement from his campaign, Nolan called the ad a “ ‘big lie’ smear campaign tactic” and said “gun ownership for recreation, personal protection, and hunting are deeply ingrained in our culture, way of life, and legal rights. I was raised with these principles.”
The campaign also pointed to a remark Mills made in the gun rights video that first brought him to political prominence. In the video, Mills suggests expanding armed guard protection for schools and paying for it, if need be, by increasing the federal fee on gun sales.
Nolan has always reacted to charges against his support for gun rights with some degree of confidence and levity. In his statement, he said “I never miss a deer opener” and when his opponent, then-U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, hit him over his NRA grade last cycle, he responded by saying the first two birthday gifts he ever purchased for his wife were hunting-related.
He has supported Democratic-proposed measures like expanding background checks for gun purchases, and during the early stages of the congressional debate over gun violence after the 2012 Newtown shootings, he told Face the Nation he supports a ban on assault rifles and and high-capacity magazines. Congress never took up those proposals.
Mills’ campaign wouldn’t disclose the size of its ad buy, but a Democratic source said the campaign recently extended an existing cable buy by $12,000 in the Duluth and Twin Cities media markets.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com.