Democrats are attacking Joni Ernst, the front-runner in the Iowa Republican Senate primary, for calling the slayings at the University of California, Santa Barbara an "accident."
"No, this unfortunate accident happened after the ad," she said.
"What happened in that shooting and that stabbing is an absolute tragedy; however, I remain firm in my commitment to the Second Amendment," she said. "And again, just because of a horrible, horrible tragedy, I don't believe we should be infringing upon people's Second Amendment rights."
Democrats have been critical of Ernst's ad, in which the National Rifle Association endorsee vows to "take a shot at ObamaCare."
They jumped on the comments.
"She described Santa Barbara as an accident," Jeff Link, a strategist for Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley's campaign, said in an email to the Des Moines Register. "This was a rampage against women with knives and guns."
Ernst and her GOP opponents mostly ignored one another and didn't land any blows during the debate, a sign there will be little to shake up the race before next Tuesday's primary. Ernst has built a solid lead in the polls. She's also campaigning later on Friday with former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the latest big-name Republican to swing through the state to help her bid.