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24 Mar, 2013 08:48

Bloomberg takes aim at NRA in anti-gun crusade

Bloomberg takes aim at NRA in anti-gun crusade

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attracted the ire of the National Rifle Association by announcing a pricey ad campaign that he hopes will “level the playing field” against the influence of America’s powerful gun lobby.

Bloomberg, who ranks among the top 10 wealthiest Americans, is bankrolling the $12 million television ad campaign for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns in an effort to get senators in ‘swing states’ to back gun control measures, including controversial background checks.

The ad campaign was announced on March 23, just days after Senate Democrats conceded defeat in their effort to reestablish a federal ban on assault-style weapons, which expired in 2004.

For many years, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has held sway over the US political with its large membership and financial clout. However, with a spate of recent mass shootings – the latest one at the Sandy Hook elementary school, where a lone gunman killed 26 people, 20 of them children – the powerful gun lobby has seen its past resilience challenged.

In fact, Bloomberg’s two advertisements, dubbed "Responsible" and "Family," deliver their message not to the traditional proponents of gun control, but rather to the very membership of the NRA.

In one ad, a bearded young man holds a shotgun while sitting in the back of a pickup truck.

He says he'll defend the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but adds "with rights come responsibilities." The apparent gun enthusiast then urges Congress to support background checks.

In the other spot, a hunter says "background checks have nothing to do with taking guns away from anyone." The man says background checks will prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting their hands on weapons.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks out for gun reform at a press conference on March 21, 2013 in New York City. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Bloomberg’s gun-control commercials will air in 13 states where the question of gun control remains an unresolved issue among voters (Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania). Senators are scheduled to continue the debate on federal gun control legislation next month following the Easter recess.

But Bloomberg will not be resting on his laurels. In addition to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the New York City mayor is also the driving force behind his super PAC, Independence USA, which will sponsor over 100 events nationwide in support of gun control legislation.

Meanwhile, the NRA remains confident that the American people will not allow Bloomberg, who is also responsible for placing restrictions against soda and salt consumption, to limit their constitutional rights

“What he is going to find out is that Americans don’t want to be told by some elitist billionaire what they can eat, drink and they damn well don’t want to be told how, when and where they can protect their families,” Chris W. Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, told The New York Times.

A spokesman for the NRA criticized Bloomberg and the ad campaign, saying NRA staff and supporters would be calling senators and urging them to vote against any gun control legislation.

"What Michael Bloomberg is trying to do is ... intimidate senators into not listening to constituents and instead pledge their allegiance to him and his money," said spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, as quoted by AP.

Earlier this month, the New York City mayor appeared on CBS' ‘Face the Nation’ where he voiced support for an assault weapons ban, but agreed that a national background databank for gun purchases would be the most effective way of addressing America’s rise in gun-related violence.

"Federal law requires background checks when a gun dealer sells you a gun," Bloomberg said, "but no background check if the sale is done over the Internet or a gun show. Fourteen states have closed that loophole and in those 14 states the suicide rate is half the national average, and the number of women that get killed in domestic violence is something like 40 per cent less than in other states."

So background checks do work, he concluded.

NRA proponents, however, maintain their opposition to the background checks, saying that a federally controlled databank of gun owners is a violation of their privacy and constitutional rights, as well as a possible first step toward enacting a ban on various types of assault weapons.

Founded in 1871 as an organization devoted to protecting the Second Amendment, membership in the NRA peaked at 4.5 million members in 2013.