On Sunday, in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg iterated his agenda to push for sweeping gun control reform, announcing that he would spend $12 million on a new television ad campaign designed to persuade senators in 13 key states to support tougher federal gun laws.
The TV spots, which were created by Bloomberg’s pro-gun control organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, depict gun owners voicing support for criminal background checks on all gun purchases, even those made between private buyers and sellers aka universal background checks.
“These ads bring the voices of Americans — who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks — into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence,” Bloomberg said in an MAIG statement.
During his Meet the Press interview, Bloomberg was asked how the ads would work to convince senators to support the controversial provision, which many gun owners argue will lead to a national gun registry of law-abiding citizens.
“If 90 percent of the public want something, and their representatives vote against that, common sense says they are going to have a price to pay for that,” Bloomberg said, referencing polls that showed widespread public support for UBCs in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting (more recent polls suggest that support for gun control may be waning).
“The public is going to eventually wake up and say, ‘I want to put in office somebody that will do the things that I think are necessary for this country.’ That’s what democracy is all about. And all we’re trying to do is to tell them what people are doing in Congress, who’s voting for what. And then they can make their own decisions.”
As PBS NewsHour reported, the ads will target the following Sens.: Jeff Flake (Arizona), Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson (Georgia), Dan Coats (Indiana), Charles Grassley (Iowa), Susan Collins (Maine), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Dean Heller (Nevada), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania). On the Democratic side, Sens. Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Kay Hagan (North Carolina) and Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota).
Following Easter Recess, the full Senate will debate a package of gun control measures, which will be anchored by the UBC provision according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In response to Bloomberg’s announcement that he would personally bankroll this latest MAIG effort, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who also appeared on Meet the Press, said that the three-term Mayor could “not buy America.”
“He can’t spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public,” LaPierre said. “They don’t want him in their restaurants, they don’t want him in their homes, they don’t want him telling them what food to eat. They sure don’t want him telling what self-defense firearms to own.’’
LaPierre added that NRA members and gun rights advocates would combat the mayor’s campaign via a strength-in-numbers approach.
“We have people all over, millions of people, sending us $5, $10, $15, $20 checks, saying, ‘Stand up to this guy that says we can only have three bullets,’ which is what he said,’” LaPierre continued. “‘Stand up to this guy that says ridiculous things like the N.R.A. wants firearms with nukes on them.’ I mean, it’s insane, the stuff he says.’’
As of today, the political fate of the UBC bill remains uncertain, primarily because the details of the provision have not been fleshed out. Questions like: ‘Will it call for a centralized, federal database of law-abiding gun owners?’ loom large, and striking the right balance between preserving the right to keep and bear arms and a more functional background check system is critical for a political feasible bill, as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) pointed out.
“I don’t know a Republican that doesn’t want to have significantly enhanced and universal background checks,” Coburn said on C-Span’s Newsmakers. “How you do that and protect the Second Amendment at the same time is very important.”
“Remember,’’ Coburn continued, “there are a lot of people in this country that — and rightly so, given the behavior of the federal government, in terms of its fiscal capability, in terms of regulatory overreach, in terms of poking its nose into every area of everybody’s life, in terms of domestic drones, in terms of all this other stuff — that you’ve created a certain level of paranoia in this country, and some of it’s justified.”
With all that is uncertain about the future of federal gun control legislation, there is at least one thing that is clear: both sides – the NRA and MAIG – are dug in and ready to fight.