Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg talks to reporters after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on February 27, 2014. Bloomberg has launched a new advocacy group that will spend $50 million this year to try and reduce gun violence. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
New York City’s billionaire former mayor Michael Bloomberg is digging deeper into his pockets in an effort to tighten America’s gun laws — $50 million deeper — and has launched a new advocacy group that will target politicians up for election.
Everytown for Gun Safety is the new umbrella group that is bringing together Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the organization Bloomberg founded in 2006, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots group formed after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.
Bloomberg is pledging to spend at least $50 million of his own money in the coming year alone on campaigns to reduce gun violence. The group says it will bring the fight for common sense gun policies to corporate boards and state and federal elections, “fields of play formerly occupied almost solely by the gun lobby.”
But the former mayor said on NBC’s Today show on Wednesday that this isn’t about outspending the powerful lobbying of the National Rifle Association.
“This is not a battle of dollars. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of America so that we can protect our children, protect innocent people,” said Bloomberg.
One of Everytown’s key strategies to win those hearts and minds is to make gun violence an election issue in this year’s midterm elections, and beyond. It is going to make scorecards for candidates, for example, a tactic that may sound familiar – the NRA has been giving passing or failing grades to candidates for years. It also plans to create a separate political action committee (PAC) that would financially support certain candidates.
Group focuses on moms
Women, ones with children in particular, are going to be a key voter block that the group goes after in its “Gun Sense Voter” campaign and they won’t shy away from pulling at the heartstrings.
“In many ways this is about emotion,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said during the interview with Bloomberg. “The gun lobby has done a good job over the last 30 years of making a vocal minority afraid people will take their guns away. As a mother, I’m afraid of someone’s going to take my children away. I believe at the end of the day that emotion will carry it.”
The group already has an advertisement on its website that is clearly targeted at mothers. It shows a young girl discovering a handgun in a closet while playing hide-and-seek with her brother as the mother chops food in the kitchen. You can guess what happens next.
Bloomberg has already spent millions of dollars on gun law campaigns and advertising and they’ve failed; a few million more won’t make a difference, according to his critics.
Erich Pratt, communications director at Gun Owners of America, said in an interview that Bloomberg’s new group and multi-million dollar effort won’t pose a serious threat.
“We are not worried. This is a top-down approach that he is taking. It’s not a real grassroots effort. He has already spent millions of dollars around the country and lost,” said Pratt.
Bloomberg, for example, tried to help the campaigns of two Democrat state senators in Colorado who faced recalls after they voted for gun reform laws. They lost their seats. It has also been reported that he has spent millions of dollars through his mayors' group on advertising campaigns.
Bloomberg: 'Daddy Warbucks'
“He is certainly free to spend his money however he wants, but I think he’s going to find out that the rest of the country is not like New York City. Ninety-seven per cent of Americans don’t live in New York City and don’t want to be told by a big city mayor how their lives should be run,” Pratt said about Bloomberg’s new group.
The former mayor earned the nickname Nanny Bloomberg while at the helm of New York because of his efforts to ban smoking in restaurants and parks, ban trans fats in restaurant food, and ban super-sized sodas. Now that he’s retired from politics he is devoting more time to his gun violence campaigns.
Pratt describes Bloomberg as a “Daddy Warbucks who wants to turn the rest of the country into New York City.” He predicts the strategy to make gun control an election issue will also fail, saying it’s never been a “burning issue” that people take to the voting booth with them.
That’s what Everytown is trying to change, again with women in particular, Watts said.
“We are going to go out, educate moms and women and Americans over the next several months before the midterms,” she said. “Right now women vote on abortion, health care and jobs. We want that to be gun violence prevention, gun violence prevention, gun violence prevention.”
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