Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is going after the National Rifle Association again, this time with a new grassroots organization aimed at motivating at least one million voters to curb gun violence during the midterm elections in November.
The outspoken gun-control advocate will spend $50 million of his own money in 2014 on the implementation of the group, Everytown for Gun Safety, The New York Times first reported. The creation of the organization came just a day before the one-year mark of when the Senate failed to pass a bipartisan proposal that would have required background checks on all commercial sales of firearms.
“It isn’t gun control,” Bloomberg, chairman of the new group, said Wednesday during an exclusive Today interview. “Nobody is going to take anybody’s gun away.”
“We are just making sure that a handful of people who we all agree shouldn’t have guns don’t get their hands on them,” he said, referencing criminals, minors, and people with psychiatric issues.
Bloomberg plans to restructure the groups he funds, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. He, along with former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, initiated the creation of the bipartisan mayors’ organization in April 2006 in an attempt to stop the flow of illegal guns in the country. Additionally, Moms Demand Action merged with the mayors’ group last December in a larger effort to support gun control in the country.
Bloomberg and the other leaders of Everytown for Gun Safety will focus their outreach on women and mothers through online videos, rather than television ads, and target 15 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and Virginia.
“Moms need to know that when they drop their kids off at school, they’re learning math and science, not how to duck and cover from gunfire,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.
Bloomberg, a longtime advocate for gun control, hopes his latest effort will gain bipartisan support.
“The truth is, it’s just too easy today for Washington politicians to cast a vote if they only hear from one side of the debate. We’re going to change that,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said Wednesday during a media conference call.
Supporters will not only focus on legislation regarding background checks, but also on decreasing domestic violence, child access to firearms, and suicides. The group has gained support from several leaders, including former Gov. of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge and investor Warren Buffett, as well as Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton, the parents of Hadiya Pendleton who died last year from gunshot wounds.
Last March, Bloomberg backed $12 million worth of gun-control advertisements that urged Americans to demand more gun safety legislation from Congress. He also voiced his support of lessening the influence of the NRA, the pro-gun group that opposes restrictions on guns. The debate was put on hold, however, when the compromised background checks bill failed in the Senate last April in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“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,” Bloomberg said.
The creation of the group comes two weeks after a shooter opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 others before taking his own life. The event was the latest in a long string of tragedies that have hit not only American military posts, but also schools and shopping malls.
“I firmly believe that within time we will absolutely see legislators start to listen to the Americans in this country who want commonsense gun laws, instead of [listening to] the gun lobby that profits from gun manufacturers,” Watts said on the media call.
Though the controversial issue has been stalled for a year at the federal level, the former mayor said on Today that the country is “making progress” on advancing toward firearms safety. At least 16 states and Washington, D.C, have extended the background checks requirement beyond federal law.
By the end of last year, however, Americans’ support for tight gun-control laws dropped to pre-Sandy Hook levels.
Following the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Bloomberg and several House Democrats called on President Obama to enact stricter gun-control laws. Shortly after, Bloomberg announced a campaign to end gun-violence, known as “demand a plan.” He received anonymous, ricin-laced letters last May in connection to his support for gun safety.
“In many ways this is about emotion,” Watts said on Today alongside Bloomberg. “As a mother, I’m afraid someone is going to take my children away.”