In Congress’ absence, Bloomberg fights on background checks

Updated
Guns seized by the New York Police Department, in the largest seizure of illegal guns in the city's history, are displayed on a table during a press...
Guns seized by the New York Police Department, in the largest seizure of illegal guns in the city's history, are displayed on a table during a press...
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

If the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords didn’t mobilize the legislature to act on gun control, don’t expect the Navy Yard to stir emotions, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

She “was one of them!” he said of the Arizona congresswoman at a press conference on Wednesday. “It didn’t stir them.”

“Is it tilting at windmills? No,” he said, rebuking the Don Quixote association. “But let’s assume it is. What are we supposed to do, walk away?”

With Congress taking a back seat on gun control, Bloomberg is leading an army of mayors backed by significant financial might to try and combat gun violence. On Wednesday’s menu for the billionaire mayor? Online gun sales.

An estimated 25,000 guns are traded online to criminals on just one gun site each year, Bloomberg said, detailing new data from a Mayors Against Illegal Guns report on online gun sales. Bloomberg called on federal authorities to enforce existing laws and further regulate online gun sales on Wednesday.

The group analyzed 607 public postings on armslist.com, the Craigslist for guns as Bloomberg puts it, where the buyers posted their phone numbers and other identifying information and found that one in 30 would-be buyers were criminals or otherwise prohibited from owning a gun.

“In the digital age, convicted felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people who are legally barred from buying guns can do so online with little more than a phone number or email address,” Bloomberg said Wednesday afternoon.

“And that is on one website. There are dozens and dozens of sites that sell weapons,” he added.

New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, but guns are still regularly brought in from other states. Last month, 250 arms were seized in the city’s biggest gun bust ever; they were brought in from North and South Carolina.

“Until Congress fixes the background checks system, criminals will continue to exploit loopholes to arm themselves and our officers will continue to find guns, abandoned near the bodies of the dead,” Mayors Against Illegal Guns Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt said at the press conference.

Bloomberg has become a loud voice in the gun debate, throwing millions into the debate all over the country.

But he’s also become a potential liability—his vocal activism has led some to attack moderates for simply being on the same side of an argument with him. In June, the National Rifle Association began running attack ads criticizing West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, saying he was bowing to Bloomberg and the president’s “gun control agenda.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns seeks to put financial might behind gun control advocates, to combat the financial might behind the gun lobby.

But it hasn’t always been enough: In Colorodo, two Democratic state senators who backed a gun control law were recalled last week despite the group’s donation of $350,000 to a group fighting the recall.

At the press conference, Bloomberg noted that 19 senators voted for the gun control measure; just two were recalled.

In Congress' absence, Bloomberg fights on background checks

Updated