WASHINGTON -- Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle (D) is making gun control a central issue in his bid for reelection, putting him at odds with his challengers in the red state.
In his first TV ad released on Tuesday, Suttle calls on Congress to pass an assault-weapons ban and limit high-capacity magazines. He notes that it's been 88 days since the shooting in Newtown, Conn., 235 days since the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., and 1,924 days since the mass shootings at the Westroads Mall in Omaha in 2007.
"And Washington still hasn't banned assault weapons," says Suttle in the ad. "As mayor, I'm tired of waiting for Washington. I'm the only candidate who would ban assault weapons in Omaha and limit high-capacity magazines. It's 21 days to Election Day. Send a message that this can never happen again."
The numbers in the ad -- produced by the national Democratic firm Putnam Partners -- will change each day until the primary election on April 2. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, will get a spot on the May 14 ballot.
When asked by The Huffington Post why he chose to focus on guns in his first ad, Suttle replied, "It's still the number one issue in Omaha, even though we have a very safe city. The issues of crime and gun violence are still very prominent in people's thoughts every day, no matter where they live in Omaha. There are some poor neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods, middle-class neighborhoods. As mayor, I need to listen to what they're saying and what they're asking for, so I decided to step forward and take a leadership role right now on this issue."
Suttle has been active in the push for gun control, including at the national level. Last week, he appeared in a public service announcement for the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns demanding that Congress take immediate action to prevent gun violence. Shortly after the Newtown massacre, he and hundreds of other mayors wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to make background checks mandatory for all gun sales and get military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines off the streets.
In 2012, Suttle set up a task force to investigate ways to reduce violent crime by getting illegal guns off the streets.
Suttle's position stands out from those of his opponents, who question whether restricting gun access would solve the problems of mass shootings. As the Omaha World-Herald noted, Suttle's ad is also distinguished from others in the race, which focus more on local economic issues.
"We need, as a people, to [figure out] what's the dividing line between civilian weapons and military weapons," said Suttle. "Civilian weapons are for sport, they're for pleasure, they're for personal self-defense. But on the military side, the weapons are for one thing: killing. And we have to decide where that dividing line is. Once we do that, we can focus on the real issues and problems, and the biggest one facing us is the mental health issue."
Suttle is the only Democrat in the five-person primary race, facing off against three Republicans and one independent.