CREDIT: Arizona Republican PartyArizona Republicans, who are scrambling to help Sen. John McCain win the “fight of his political life,” unveiled a poster this week depicting the face of McCain’s Democratic challenger surrounded by bullet holes.The Wild West-themed poster accuses Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) — who is polling neck and neck with McCain — of not holding enough public events during her campaign.The image has outraged many in the state, as it comes just five years after another Arizona Democratic congresswoman was shot in the head at a public event.Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who survived the attempted assassination in 2011 but remains partially paralyzed with limited speech, joined the chorus of voices demanding the state GOP remove the “irresponsible” poster and apologize.“In a state and country that know the toll of gun violence too well, there is no room for invoking the use of firearms in our politics,” she said, in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress. “Our political leaders have the responsibility to avoid a descent into messages that might suggest that elections are settled anywhere else than at the ballot box.”The GOP leaders, however, are standing by the image, which they hand-delivered to Kirkpatrick’s campaign office and posted online. Matthew Specht with the Arizona Republican Party told the Arizona Daily Star that “no one” connected the poster’s bullet imagery with violence “until the Kirkpatrick campaign tried to use it as a way to distract the media from Ann Kirkpatrick’s absence from the campaign trail.”“Ann Kirkpatrick has decided once again to make something out of nothing,” he said.Yet this isn’t the first time Republicans have featured Kirkpatrick on a controversial, gun-themed poster. In 2010, McCain’s former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s super PAC created a map showing Kirkpatrick and other members of Congress they wanted to unseat, placing shooting target icons over their districts. The language accompanying the poster called on to supporters to “aim for these races,” assuring them that it was “just the first salvo.” Palin told her online fans when unveiling the map: “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!”The day Giffords was literally shot, Palin took the poster off of her Facebook page. At the time, pundits and psychologists expressed fears that this violent language and imagery could have influence over someone struggling with a mental illness like Giffords’ shooter.“Rhetorical extremism…can and has led to violence and murder,” noted The Atlantic.“His actions did not take place in a vacuum,” observed Psychology Today.John McCain has not yet commented on the Arizona GOP’s “wanted” poster of his opponent. Kirkpatrick’s campaign has denounced it as “disgusting” and “disturbing,” and called it “just more proof that McCain has abandoned the principles he was once respected for in a desperate attempt to save his political career.”Arizona GOP Releases ‘Wanted’ Poster With Bullet Holes Around Democratic Candidate’s Face was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. Read the responses to this story on Medium.