Billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg’s presidential run helped gun-rights groups light a fire under owners of firearms who grew somewhat complacent in the era of President Trump.
Gun groups ranging from the National Rifle Association to Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership are whipping up their members with dire warnings about a potential President Bloomberg.
A former mayor of New York City who leapfrogged to the top-tier in the Democratic presidential race, Mr. Bloomberg has a long record of challenging the Second Amendment from his get-tough policies as mayor to bankrolling a massive gun control advocacy organization.
The National Association for Gun Rights alerted its members on social media to Mr. Bloomberg’s $300 million campaign to “DESTROY the Second Amendment,” calling on them to unite and stop “his anti-gun agenda.”
“Our members are motivated by Mike Bloomberg and have been for a while,” said Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights. “He is a billionaire and one of his main focuses has been spending his own personal money to destroy the Second Amendment. And he has been relatively successful. All of the groups on the left rely on his money.”
The NRA recently penned an editorial detailing the former mayor’s high-dollar push to limit soda consumption through taxes and shut down coal-fired power plants, arguing he will do the same to guns.
“Bloomberg has promised to spend ‘whatever it takes’ from his $55 billion personal fortune to control you from our nation’s capital,” the NRA article warned of his self-funded run for the Oval Office.
Amy Hunter, the NRA’s director of media relations, said Mr. Bloomberg is just like the other Democratic presidential candidates pushing for “registration, confiscation and bans,” but his deep pockets make him a top enemy for legal gun owners.
“His hypocritical desire to strip all Americans of their right to self-defense while he enjoys 24/7 armed security and his willingness to spend billions to destroy the Second Amendment make him a greater threat to those who cherish their constitutional rights,” said Ms. Hunter.
Alan Korwin, a consultant with Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, said the group is convinced Mr. Bloomberg’s goal is gun confiscation.
“He reflects everything that is wrong with the mainstream Jewish population in America. He doesn’t understand why guns are important and he takes a strictly anti-gun rights view. He wants to confiscate guns,” Mr. Korwin said.
Mr. Bloomberg’s presence in the race feeds fears of a gun grab, fears that often translate into fundraising boons for Second Amendment groups who have seen contributions dip in the years since President Barack Obama left office.
The NRA, which also has been racked by internal disputes and legal challenges, suffered a multimillion dollar fundraising shortfall last year.
GOP strategist Ryan Rhodes said the gun issue had been “dormant on the right” but is reemerging with states such as once gun-loving Virginia passing assault-weapon bans and other strict gun control measures.
“The higher Bloomberg’s profile and the longer he lasts, the more likely it will continue to energize gun owners,” Mr. Rhodes said.
On the flip side, Mr. Bloomberg’s anti-gun bona fides could be reassuring to Democratic primary voters skeptical of the former mayor who since 2000 has switched from Democrat to Republican to independent and back to Democrat.
“It helps him only by making him seem like an authentic Democrat,” said Richard Anderson, a political science professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. “Opposition to gun ownership is a badge of being a Democrat, not a principal policy objective of Democratic candidates or their voters.”
An aide for the Bloomberg campaign said his career demonstrates the issue of gun violence is a top priority.
“He’s been someone who has taken on the NRA and actually passed common-sense gun safety laws,” the aide told The Washington Times. “They see Mike as a threat because he’s taken them on and won.”
Mr. Bloomberg, who is self-financing his presidential bid, ranks as the 14th richest person in the world and runs the Bloomberg News empire.
He has put his fortune to work for more than a decade on efforts to restrict gun possession — not just in New York, but across the country.
He co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which later merged with other gun control groups to form Everytown for Gun Safety. The organization recently launched a $1.25 million digital ad campaign in five key swing states to call on lawmakers to pass legislation such as universal background checks and other firearm laws.
As mayor, Mr. Bloomberg pushed for increasing the minimum punishment for illegal handgun possession and promoted stop-and-frisk policies. He has since backed away from the stop-and-frisk approach, which some have criticized as racist.
For one of his first policy speeches after joining the presidential race in late November, Mr. Bloomberg headed to Aurora, Colorado, to lay out his plan to curtail mass shootings.
He blamed politicians for looking the other way on the issue.
“As president, I will attack gun violence from every angle,” he said after visiting a memorial to the 12 victims who died at the 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater.
He wants “point of sale” background checks for all firearm purchases, requiring anyone buying a gun to also hold a permit, and he has touted red flag laws while closing loopholes that allow domestic-abuse suspects and others deemed to be dangerous to possess firearms.
Mr. Bloomberg promised that as president he would reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons and prohibit high-capacity magazines. A 10-year ban on assault weapons expired in 2004 after being enacted by President Bill Clinton. Some studies have suggested the ban had little effect on curtailing homicide rates, reflecting the small percentage of killings that ever used such weapons.
More than $100 million should be dedicated annually to local programs to curtail gun violence, he said.
His plan also would hold gun makers accountable by doing away with laws that shield them from civil liability for when their products are used. Other points included in his plan include raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21, prohibiting 3D printing of weapons, and banning guns from school campuses.
The advocacy work on the gun issue and his record as mayor of New York City for more than a decade garnered him endorsements from fellow gun control advocates, including from Rep. Lucy McBath, Georgia Democrat and a former spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety.
“I first met Mike when I was searching for ways to fight against the dangerous gun laws that ripped my son from my life,” Ms. McBath said.
“Mike gave grieving mothers like me a way to stand up and fight back. Nobody running for president has done more for the gun violence prevention movement than Mike. I am proud to stand with him in this race, and work with him when he is in the White House to keep our communities safe,” she said.
Mr. Bloomberg’s opponents in the Democratic primary have all pushed forms of gun control such as a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks.
A Gallup poll from last month revealed 34% of Americans said gun policy is an extremely important issue as they consider who to cast a vote for in the election.
The gun control group Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence touted recent polling that found 59% of suburban females in swing states classify gun safety as extremely important for their vote, and 64% said they would not support a candidate who opposed requiring background checks on all firearm sales.
Richard L. Pacelle Jr., a political science professor at the University of Tennessee, did not see a downside for Mr. Bloomberg or his rivals on the gun issue.
“It is a kind of issue, along with health care, that, if I were the Democrats, I would be pounding on these daily,” he said.
“This seems like a gift.”
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