WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg is putting his money where his mouth is – reaching into his pocket to fund a new $12 million ad campaign about gun control.
Meanwhile Sunday, the gloves were off as Bloomberg sparred with National Rifle Association chief executive officer and executive vice president Wayne LaPierre as the U.S. Senate gears up for debate on the highly contentious issue.
As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, for the pro-gun control ad, lawmakers are the target audience.
In the ad, a hunter in clad in flannel and carrying a rifle says he will fight to protect the Second Amendment.
“For me, guns are for hunting and protecting my family,” the hunter says.
But the hunter also throws his support behind comprehensive background checks “so the criminals and the dangerous mentally ill can’t buy guns.”
The ad is an appeal aimed at persuading 15 senators — including some Democrats and Republicans in 13 key states – to back gun control efforts. More specifically, Bloomberg wants the lawmakers to support background checks, since a new assault weapons ban is unlikely.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, LaPierre blasted the billionaire mayor for launching several initiatives that critics say is making New York a “nanny state.”
“He can’t spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public. 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 and he can’t buy America. He’s so reckless in terms of his comments on this whole gun issue,” LaPierre said on “Meet The Press.”
Bloomberg shot back, arguing that the NRA has had a monopoly on the gun control debate for too long.
“If I can do that by spending some money and taking the NRA from being the only voice to being one of the voices so the public can really understand the issues, then I think my money would be well spent and I think I have an obligation to do that,” Bloomberg said on the Sunday morning talk show.
Bloomberg, who helped found Mayors Against Illegal Guns and other gun control initiatives, has renewed his call for an assault weapons ban and universal background checks.
LaPierre accused Bloomberg of using scare tactics to try to reframe the debate.
“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. Stand up to this guy that says ridiculous things like ‘the NRA wants firearms with nukes on them,'” LaPierre said.
The assault weapons ban component has been dropped from the bill being hammered out by Senate Democratic leaders. Majority Leader Harry Reid last week said the decision was made because that element was not likely to receive the needed bipartisan support and therefore the whole measure could have been in jeopardy.
Reid said removing that element was done to help give the entire measure a better chance of passing.
The federal assault weapons ban was allowed to expire in 2004.
Still, Bloomberg said in the long term he’s confident meaningful gun control will take effect.
“I think we are going to win this. Celebrating in advance isn’t the right thing to do. We’ve got to go out, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. But I don’t think we should give up on the assault weapons ban but clearly it is a more difficult issue for a lot of people. And I don’t know that that reflects the NRA’s power, may be just that people have different views about assault weapons than they do about background checks – 90 percent of the people want background checks,” Bloomberg said. “You go back to 1999, Wayne LaPierre testified on behalf of the NRA that background checks were appropriate and should be done. And Congress back in 1968 actually made them the law of the land, but they don’t apply to 40 percent of the gun sales today.”
The gun control debate was reignited following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14. Adam Lanza used a military-style assault rifle to kill 20 first graders and six educators in that rampage.
In the aftermath of the shooting, President Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden to head up a task force on gun violence. LaPierre made an announcement on behalf of the NRA in the wake of the shooting and called for armed guards in all schools.
The Senate is expected to vote on its gun control measure next month.
What gun control measures, if any, would you like to see enacted on the federal level? Sound off in the comments section below…