Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) criticized New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's federal gun control push on Tuesday, advising the mayor that he should be more worried about gun violence in his own city than in North Dakota, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
"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. "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 North Dakota."
Heitkamp, who previously served as North Dakota's attorney general, added, "I do not need someone from New York City to tell me how to handle crime in our state."
Her statement came in response to the recent $12 million ad buy from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, pushing senators in key states -- including Heitkamp -- to support such gun control legislation as comprehensive background checks. Bloomberg, who co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns in 2006 and is personally financing the ad campaign, is spending roughly $156,000 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 wrote.
Bloomberg earlier defended the ad buy, saying that the campaign reflects the sentiments of most Americans. "These ads bring the voices of Americans -- who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks -- into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence," he said in a statement issued last week by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
According to survey data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, roughly 50.7 percent of North Dakotans own a firearm -- one of the highest rates in the country. Yet the state's annual gun homicide rate is below the national average, with less than 1.1 per 100,000 people dying from gun violence in North Dakota, compared to the national rate of 2.75 per 100,000.
Heitkamp attributed these figures to North Dakota's "proud ... outdoor heritage," explaining that firearms owners in her state understand the rights and responsibilities that come with gun ownership.
"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," Heitkamp argued.
"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," added Heitkamp, whose state has about 700,000 inhabitants.
This isn't the first ad campaign targeting Heitkamp's position on gun control. In January, less than a week after she was sworn in as senator, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence launched a series of ads attacking her pro-gun stance.
"No parent should have to send their children to school wondering if they will come home," that ad read. "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 coalition was responding to statements made by Heitkamp that the White House's gun control plans were "way in extreme."