Butler's new mayor is the subject of a video made by the National Rifle Association, which endorsed his November campaign.
“I have to tell you that I think I got some votes from their endorsement. I am pro-Second Amendment and have a literal interpretation of the Constitution,” said Tom Donaldson, who says he always carries a gun.
The eight-minute video, “Voters Stick to Their Guns,” features interviews with Donaldson, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, and several pro-gun Butler voters.
It includes remarks from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun control advocate.
“It was impressive to talk to people in the community. I don't think they saw this as just a firearms issue. They are concerned about freedom and don't think a mayor like Bloomberg belongs in their backyard,” said Ginny Simone, who reports and produces videos for the NRA's website.
Simone spent four days in Butler this month making the video, which is accessible at NRANews.com and YouTube.
“People wanted change. This is not New York City. This ‘Small Town USA,' conservative America,” Butler resident Jim Ditmer said of the election in the video.
The NRA targeted former Mayor Maggie Stock last fall because she signed a petition backing Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group organized and largely funded by Bloomberg.
“Former Mayor Maggie Stock made this an issue. Butler is a gun-toting community,” Donaldson said.
Stock accuses the NRA of distorting her record, saying, “It was a hot-button issue that got the attention of people who don't usually vote. They are completely tainting the process.
“This is about illegal handgun sales, gun trafficking, straw purchases and moving illegal guns across state lines,” she said. “Why would anyone support that? This has nothing at all to do with hunting.”
Donaldson, a former police chief, questioned the accuracy of the Bloomberg group's name.
“Mayors Against Illegal Guns. That sounds nice. What they really mean is, mayors that want to take your guns.”
Donaldson contends that strict gun control failed in cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago, which last year logged 415 homicides, more than any American city.
“It's the criminals who have all the guns in those places,” he said.
Two weeks before the election, the NRA made robocalls and sent postcards opposing Stock, saying she was affiliated with an “extremist” anti-gun group.
Donaldson said he campaigned more on fighting crime than specifically on guns, and he contends that guns “are not a mayor's issue.”
Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said Stock's loss is an exception.
“More than 95 percent of the Pennsylvania mayors in our coalition who were up for re-election in November prevailed,” Glaze said. “We have a strong delegation of Pennsylvania mayors because they are fighting for what 88 percent of Pennsylvanians support: common-sense gun laws that will save lives.”
Rick Wills is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7944 or at [email protected].