NEW YORK – Michael Bloomberg, America’s most prominent and deep-pocketed advocate for gun control, would rather rehabilitate Republicans than oust them.
Somebody got them the way they are now, the mayor of New York said in a recent interview as he sat in the bullpen offices of City Hall. Why can’t you change them?
Today, Bloomberg will headline a summit on guns at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, another opportunity for the outspoken mayor to deliver an indictment of Washington’s failure to do anything meaningful on the issue. Although the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent says he practices a noble and practical brand of post-partisan politics, when it comes to gun laws, he is more aligned with one party than the other.
Democrats in the White House and Congress are working closely with his advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to enact his gun-control agenda. And Republicans, especially those in the House, don’t seem the least bit interested.
Oh sure, Bloomberg said, he would blame Republicans if they blocked new gun-control legislation in the House. But having said that, I won’t let the Democrats off the hook.
He added that when Democrats were in power, they didn’t do it, and President Obama campaigned on an assault weapons ban, and he didn’t do it, so spare me.
After the massacre in Newtown, Conn., a collection of progressive groups and Democratic lawmakers have aggressively entered the debate.
That still leaves Bloomberg with a significant distinction: He’s a multibillionaire who can immediately reshape the landscape of gun politics with his money. His hope is that he can break the GOP of what he sees as its National Rifle Association addiction by using his considerable resources to promote gun laws with which many NRA members will agree.
I’m going to prove a counterweight to the NRA, said Bloomberg, who spent about $10 million in five congressional and statewide races against NRA-supported candidates last year, winning four of those contests. It seemed effective, and I’m certainly going to take a good, hard look at next time. You can organize people, I can write checks.
Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the NRA, said that while there were billions of reasons to take him seriously, the organization viewed Bloomberg’s handpicked races as an attempt to manufacture a story line.
The NRA, he said, played in hundreds of races at the federal level and thousands of races at the state legislative level. As far as Bloomberg’s effort to peel off Republicans, Arulanandam did not seem particularly worried.
He is free to spend his money or waste it however he sees fit, he said.
Bloomberg said he plans to use his super PAC, Independence USA, to tell the public, This guy or woman is in favor of leaving guns in the hands of crazies who can kill your kids, the other one is not. I think you should vote for the other one.
The other one, he specified, doesn’t necessarily mean the Republican.
With Bloomberg’s money, Mayors Against Illegal Guns – members include Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and Angola Mayor Richard Hickman – has grown in size and influence, running ads, lobbying lawmakers, conducting undercover investigations. Reflecting Bloomberg’s bipartisan obsession, the group made a concerted, although largely cosmetic, effort to enlist Republican mayors. It hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to conduct surveys.
Luntz said he was hired because he was an expert with a multimillion-dollar business and not for Republican cover. Said John Feinblatt, City Hall’s point person on guns, The Republican Party listens to him.
Since the Newtown shooting, 441,495 new supporters have joined Bloomberg’s coalition, as well as 100 new mayors, bringing the total to 837.