(CNN) — Directly mentioning the Newtown, Connecticut shootings for the first time in a campaign ad, Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Ed Markey criticized his Republican opponent Gabriel Gomez for opposing gun-control legislation.
"Gomez is against battling assault weapons," the ad says. "And Gomez is against banning high-capacity magazines like the ones used in the Newtown school shooting."
A lone gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, killing 20 children and six educators. The massacre took place one state over from Massachusetts.
The ad praises Markey for taking on the National Rifle Association and fighting for "common sense laws to stop gun violence."Gomez released a statement on Friday saying, "Exploiting a tragedy for political gain is sick."
As a father and former Navy SEAL, Gomez also noted in his statement that he was horrified by the shootings in Newtown and knows firsthand "what happens when bad people get access to guns."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly responded to the ad, also claiming it politicized the Newtown tragedy, tweeting: "Disgusting, Deplorable & Desperate Attack Ads on Former Navy SEAL Par for the Course for Markey."
Markey campaign spokesman Andrew Zucker addressed the Republican response to the spot, saying in a statement, "If Gabriel Gomez agrees with his national GOP handlers that Massachusetts families don't care about preventing gun violence, he should speak up and say so, instead of crying foul over advertisements that highlight his own opposition to banning deadly assault weapons and limiting high-capacity magazines."
"There are very real differences between Ed Markey and Gabriel Gomez on critically important issues such as preventing gun violence, and no amount of feigned outrage by Gomez or the national Republicans will change that," he continued.
The special election between Markey and Gomez will take place on June 25 to fill the seat of former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who was appointed to Secretary of State by President Obama in January.