Updated June 12, 2:12 p.m.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent a letter on Wednesday appealing to top New York donors, asking that they close their wallets to the Democrats who voted against background checks in the Senate last month.
“The next time these four senators want you to support them with donations to their campaigns, tell them you cannot. Until they show that they will stand up for the American people and not the gun lobby, tell them you cannot support their candidacy,” he wrote in the letter obtained by NBC News.
“This is not a partisan thing, this is saving lives,” the mayor said on Morning Joe.
Democratic leaders fear the move could cost them a Senate majority, but Bloomberg brushed off the fear: we’re playing hardball, just like the NRA.
“The NRA has defined how you go about getting something done. You say look, I know your opponent may be worse, but this is the issue, we’re judging you, we’re not judging your opponent. We’ll deal with your opponent at a different time. We want you to vote this way, this is what’s right for the country,” the New York City mayor said. “I think what the NRA thinks is right for the country is dead wrong, if you’ll pardon the pun.”
The letter signaled to pro-gun interests on the eve of Friday’s six-month anniversary of the Newtown shooting that the fight is not over, nor are the troops retreating.
Families of the Newtown, Conn., victims returned to Washington to meet with legislators, including a Wednesday meeting with West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin to discuss a second background check push. Manchin, the Democratic senator who sponsored the legislation with Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, that failed last month, has pledged to keep fighting for background checks. Bloomberg’s advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, will kick off a 100-day bus tour from Newtown Friday. It will bring gun violence survivors, victims’ families, and other advocates to 25 states to advocate for stricter gun laws.
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In his letter, Bloomberg slammed the four senators who voted against background checks—Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas—for continuing to ask for money from New Yorkers while voting against the bill, because New York’s strict gun laws have historically been undercut by other states’ more lax laws.
“Make no mistake: loopholes at the federal level undermine our efforts to keep our streets safe,” Bloomberg wrote in the letter, concluding: “And until they show they will stop bowing to pressure from the gun lobby, you should not support them.”
On Morning Joe, Bloomberg outlined his strategy for passing gun control: focus on one chamber at a time. The group will exert pressure on senators standing in the way of the bill, regardless of party. Once a bill clears the Senate, Bloomberg said he would then begin working on House Republicans, promising his political money and might in exchange for votes.
Related: Pryor ad hits back at Bloomberg on gun control
"Then you go and you sit down with [Speaker John] Boehner and [Eric] Cantor and the leadership on the Republican side in the House and you say if you want your members to get re-elected you should vote with the public," he said, referencing the public’s support for the Manchin-Toomey amendment. "I've said to both of them, I'll support them."
"12,000 Americans get killed by illegal handguns every year; 19,000 Americans kill themselves with illegal handguns. Background checks work. There's plenty of evidence of that," he added. “Going after these guys and saying don’t give money to them if they don’t vote the way you want is the way democracy should work. You should support the people you agree with...I’m not the first one to do this, we’ve always done this.”