ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri assembles an AR-15 assault rifle — blindfolded — then dares the incumbent Republican to do the same in a TV ad released Thursday.
"I approved this message," Jason Kander says, pausing briefly to rack the slide, figuratively placing a round in the chamber, "'cause I'd like to see Sen. Blunt do this."
The brazen ad is the latest salvo in a competitive race that could be a factor in determining which party controls the Senate after the November election.
Roy Blunt, 66, a seven-term congressman before being elected to the Senate in 2010, is a strong gun rights supporter who has the backing of the National Rifle Association — so much so that NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre traveled to Missouri last month on Blunt's behalf.
Blunt received three student deferments during the Vietnam War and did not serve in the military. Kander, Missouri's 35-year-old secretary of state, was an Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan.
The 30-second spot shows Kander standing at a table in what looks to be an empty warehouse, talking while he blindly slams together the pieces of the weapon.
He mentions "attacks" by Blunt on the issue of guns and says that while in the Army he learned to respect his rifle. He says that in Afghanistan, he volunteered to ride with a gun in a convoy of unarmed SUVs.
He notes his support of Second Amendment rights during his time in the state legislature, along with his belief in background checks "so terrorists can't get their hands on one of these."
Kander's campaign said the ads are running statewide.
Blunt spokesman Tate O'Connor said Kander is apparently "reacting to an NRA ad highlighting the fact that he was one of the most anti-Second Amendment legislators and was awarded an F for his opposition to Missourians' Second Amendment rights."
The Kander ad hits two themes that benefit Kander in a Middle America state like Missouri, said Ken Warren, a political scientist at Saint Louis University. It shows he knows his way around guns, and it plays up his military background.
"Militarism sells in Missouri," Warren said. "The appeal is to people who like the patriotism."
Gun rights are a big deal in Missouri, too. State lawmakers on Wednesday were successful in overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill eliminating permit requirements to conceal and carry a firearm.
Earlier this year, Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer, drew national attention for a TV ad in which he fired an assault rifle into an open field, causing an explosion. Greitens won the Republican primary and will face Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in November.