NASHVILLE - The National Rifle Association says it's given Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Gordon Ball an "F" rating on Second Amendment rights, charging Ball has embraced former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "gun control agenda."
A Ball spokeswoman said the campaign was not aware of the grade or the charges.
Ball faces U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who has been endorsed by the powerful NRA's political arm, the Political Victory Fund.
In the news release, NRA-PVF cites comments Ball was quoted making to Knoxviews, a blog the gun-rights group described as "progressive citizen media for East Tennessee."
The NRA says Ball "publicly endorsed Bloomberg's overreaching and intrusive so-called 'universal' background check system that would require federal government approval for transferring firearms between lifelong friends and many family members. Ball also stated he supports more restrictions on magazines and commonly used semi-automatic firearms."
Chris W. Cox, chairman of the NRA-PVF, charged that "on the issue of gun control, there isn't a dimes worth of difference between Michael Bloomberg, Barack Obama and Gordon Ball. Gordon Ball is the kind of candidate who will say he supports the Second Amendment just to win an election, but if elected, will be a reliable vote for the Obama-Bloomberg gun control agenda."
In the interview posted on the Knoxviews website, Ball said, "with obvious exceptions, I support the right of every American to own a gun to protect themselves and their families. However, we have to use common sense. We can't forget the tragedies of Columbine, Newtown, and Fort Hood. Polls show that nearly 90% of Americans support a strong system of background checks for gun purchases.
"To me," Ball added, "gun rights are important rights, but we can't lose sight of the fact that expanded background checks may save lives. And if we can save one child from being killed by a firearm - put in the wrong hands - then that's what we need to do."
But Ball qualified that, saying, "I'm very mindful that an overwhelming number of our nation's veterans are proud gun owners. In crafting legislation that adds additional background checks, we need to be very cautious about not putting our veterans or active military members into a Catch-22 of seeking mental health treatment and potentially forfeiting their Second Amendment rights, or foregoing mental treatment to preserve the right to own and purchase firearms."
He also charged an Alexander vote on legislation expanding background checks "does not adequately address this Catch-22, and as senator, I would work steadfastly to defend the Second Amendment rights of Americans, especially our veterans, while acknowledging common-sense local solutions to the nation's gun violence problem."
Asked whether he supported restrictions on high capacity magazines and "military style firearms," Knoxviews quoted Ball as saying he would. "High-capacity magazines are used to kill more people more quickly and, from what I have read, have been used in more than half the mass shootings since 1982."
Ball said he sees "a tremendous difference between guns used by a sportsman or a homeowner on one hand and high-powered assault weapons with high-capacity magazines on the other."
"I grew up in Cocke County surrounded by guns," Ball noted. "The fact is that in the wrong hands, guns are often used for violent crimes. Therefore, I support our law enforcement personnel and prosecutors who are often outgunned by criminals who use high-capacity magazines."
The NRA-PVF says Alexander "stood up to Obama and Bloomberg's efforts to pass gun control through the Senate last year." Moreover, the release says, Alexander opposes any treaty by the United Nations or any other global organization that would impose restrictions on American gun owners."
"Tennesseans deserve a senator who believes that the Second Amendment is a fundamental, individual constitutional right," Cox says in the release. "We urge Tennessee's gun owners and sportsmen to vote Lamar Alexander for U.S. Senate on November 4."