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Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, Published March 26 2013

VIDEO: Heitkamp says Bloomberg's gun control ads don't get ND

GRAND FORKS – Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., responded sharply Tuesday to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s TV ad campaign targeting senators who may be reluctant to support pending gun control legislation.

Bloomberg is personally financing the campaign in 13 states, including North Dakota, where he believes senators, Republicans and Democrats, need pressure from constituents to vote for requiring background checks for all gun purchases.

Of the roughly $10 million aimed at boosting support for the legislation across the country, about $156,000 is to be spent in North Dakota.

“North Dakota continues to have one of the highest rates of gun ownership and lowest incidences of gun crime in the country,” Heitkamp said in a statement released Tuesday by her Washington, D.C., office. “Yet New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists on taking gun-driven crime statistics in his city and from other major cities and trying to force those numbers into a narrative that just does not fit in North Dakota.

“Frankly, there are far better uses for Mayor Bloomberg’s $156,000 than buying ads attacking a way of life he clearly does not understand.”

Heitkamp campaigned for the Senate seat in 2012 as a strong defender of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms.

“Gun ownership in North Dakota comes down to growing up in a culture where those rights come with an ingrained responsibility taught at a young age,” she said in her statement Tuesday. “We are proud of our outdoor heritage and will continue to protect the rights of our hunters and sport shooters, the rights of our farmers and ranchers to protect their crops and livestock from wildlife, and the rights of responsible, law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their homes.”

She said she supports keeping guns “out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill,” and that is why she supports “each state fully reporting into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”

As North Dakota’s former attorney general, “I do not need someone from New York City to tell me how to handle crime in our state,” Heitkamp said.

“I know that we can go after and prosecute criminals without the need to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding North Dakotans,” she said. “I believe in using every tool available to find and prosecute criminals to the fullest extent of the law, and that includes criminals purchasing firearms or in the possession of firearms.

“I wouldn’t expect Mayor Bloomberg to follow my advice on how to run a major east coast city of over 8 million people, and I don’t plan to follow his advice on what is best for North Dakotans.”

Bloomberg’s ad campaign is not the first challenge Heitkamp has faced from gun control advocates since her election. In January, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence placed ads in Politico and Roll Call as well as in North Dakota newspapers.

“No parent should have to send their children to school wondering if they will come home,” the ad read, according to an account in the Huffington Post. “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.’ ”

Heitkamp made her remarks on ABC’s “This Week” as she criticized a White House plan to seek a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and tougher penalties for providing guns to minors. “I don’t think that proposal necessarily fit the bill for me,” she said then.

She said she prefers “a balanced approach,” including a focus on the mental health aspect of gun violence, “and we need to live in reality, what can you actually get passed.”