Michael Bloomberg unveils $12m gun control advertising blitz

New York mayor bankrolls campaign to pressurise Congress into stricter controls

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg with US vice-president Joseph Biden (left) and family members of victims of Sandy Hook school shooting. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg with US vice-president Joseph Biden (left) and family members of victims of Sandy Hook school shooting. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Mon, Mar 25, 2013, 06:41

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is bankrolling a $12 million advertising blitz in a bid to pressure Congress into adopting stricter gun controls.

The television advertisements are set to run in 13 key states during the congressional recess and are aimed at influencing an upcoming Senate vote on gun reforms.

Announcing the move, Mr Bloomberg – the co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and one of the US’s most high-profile advocates of tighter controls – said: “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.”

But pro-gun lobby group the National Rifle Association (NRA), accused the New York mayor of attempting to “intimidate senators”.

The new ads feature a man holding a gun on the back of a pickup truck. In one, he says he will defend the second amendment but adds that “with rights come responsibilities”. He goes on to urge viewers to tell Congress to support background checks.

In the other advertisement posted on the Mayors Against Illegal Guns website, the man says “background checks have nothing to do with taking guns away from anyone”, rather they are aimed at preventing criminals and mentally ill people from owning deadly weapons.

The advertising plan comes days after the Senate disappointed advocates of greater controls by effectively abandoning a proposal to ban military-style assault weapons.

Assault rifle ban
Last Tuesday, Senate leader Harry Reid said that the ban would not form part of a bill members are due to vote on, as it did not have the support needed to force it through Congress.

But in his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Barack Obama called on Washington to vote on the assault rifle ban in any case.

Describing the proposal and others including background checks as commonsense measures, he added: “They are supported by a majority of the American people. And I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote.”

Likewise Mr Bloomberg called on the Senate to put gun control measures to the vote. “We demanded a plan and we got one. We demanded a vote and we’ll get one. Now we’re doing what we can to pass a bill that will save lives,” he said.

Initial optimism
The renewed focus on addressing the problem with gun violence in the US followed a series of mass shootings in 2012, culminating in the deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.

However, initial optimism that meaningful reform would take place has become bogged down in the realities of Washington politics.

Meanwhile public opinion appears to be wavering. In the immediate aftermath of the Connecticut school massacre, some 52 per cent of Americans were found to be in favour of major restrictions on guns. According to a CNN/ORC poll released last week, that number had dropped to 43 per cent.

Asked on NBC’s Meet the Press if he thought momentum on the issue had gone, Mr Bloomberg said: “It would be a great tragedy for this country and for tens of thousands of lives if it is lost.” – (Guardian service)