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Senator Martha McSally (R-Ariz) distanced herself from a fundraising email sent out by Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward calling on voters to stop “gun grabber” Mark Kelly “dead in his tracks.”

“I certainly wouldn’t have chosen those words,” McSally said in an interview on KTAR (92.3 FM).

Kelly, a Democrat running for McSally’s Senate seat next year, is married to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was nearly killed in a shooting in 2011. Six other people died in the attack and a dozen others were wounded. Since the shooting, Kelly and his wife have both advocated for universal background checks.

Ward, however, made no apologies, taking to Twitter to defend the email. She said that she meant no harm to Kelly and called the media’s coverage of the email “utterly ridiculous.” Ward’s email drew significant criticism from Democrats who noted Kelly’s ties to the 2011 shooting. 

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz) even went so far as to pressure McSally to call for Ward’s resignation on Twitter.

McSally has not done so, but she did say that Kelly’s views on gun safety would cause harm. A longtime opponent of gun safety legislation, McSally once described efforts to pass universal background checks to close the gun show loophole as “unconstitutional.” 

Her opposition to gun safety laws earned her an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association in 2018. The gun rights organization has also donated to every one of McSally’s electoral campaigns over the years and she has received $372,615 from the gun industry and lobby during her time in politics. 

McSally has been a reliable voice against gun safety bills over the years, but in the aftermath of this summer’s spate of mass shootings, she seems to have softened her opposition. 

Such a pivot would make sense, given 89% of Americans support universal background checks, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.