Waiting for Bloomberg to ‘take off the gloves’ on gun control

Cy Vance, Bloomberg and Ray Kelly with an AR-15. (Dana Rubinstein)
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A short while after news emerged today of a mass shooting at a school in Connecticut, City Councilman David Greenfield, a Democrat, tweeted, "Waiting to hear from @MikeBloomberg. He's the one person who can force passage of sensible gun control laws. I hope he take off the gloves."

Later in the afternoon, the mayor issued a statement referring to the president's tearful reaction to the murder of 20 schoolchildren, saying that "Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough."

Really, though, the idea of Bloomberg "taking off the gloves" isn't about his rhetoric.

He's already done that, after all, issuing angry statements like clockwork after every high-profile national gun tragedy, from the Aurora Dark Knight shootings to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, always saying some version of the same thing: America's leaders are failing it by not engaging on the issue of gun control, largely for fear of the National Rifle Association. 

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Bloomberg has done this consistently, and often nearly alone among high-profile elected officials, heedless of preemptive admonitions not to "politicize" shootings, and without concern that such opportunism would be deemed insensitive.

During the campaign, Bloomberg routinely castigated both Obama and Mitt Romney for failing to talk seriously about guns, to the point that he became, as UCLA professor Adam Winkler described him, the "face of the gun-control movement."

But it's not actually a ramping up of Bloomberg's rhetoric that will change the balance of power in the political debate over gun control, which the N.R.A. and its allies have been winning, in a romp, since at least the early '90s. (That's when many Democrats concluded that the issue was a total loser and determined not to get in any more fights with Republicans about it about it, ever.)

It's the ramping up of Bloomberg's spending to support pro-gun-control candidates, which he did on a multi-million-dollar scale late in this year's national election cycle, and which he apparently plans to do on a much larger scale after he leaves office.

"Look, I think that the mayor feels very strongly about this issue," his chief policy adviser John Feinblatt told me in April, in an interview about the mayor's aspirations eventually to build a lobbying counterweight to the N.R.A. "I have every expectation this is an issue that he will continue to work on and probably even with more jet propulsion, you could argue."

Here's the entire statement from Bloomberg, in his capacity as co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns:

With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.