Bloomberg hints at major spending on gun control

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Bloomberg on Meet the Press. (via MSNBC.com)
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Michael Bloomberg this morning called on President Obama to "stand up and lead" in the fight to enact stricter gun controls.

"He's the commander in chief as well as the consoler in chief," said Bloomberg during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"There was another shooting yesterday, three people killed, I think, in a hospital," he said. "We kill people in schools, we kill them in hospitals, we kill them in religious organizations, we kill them when they're young, we kill them when they're old. And we've just got to stop this."

On the day of the appearance, the Daily News ran an op-ed by the former manager of Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns about some of the gun massacres that have gotten less attention than this most recent, in which a 20-year-old gunman murdered 20 first-graders and seven adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

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Stricter gun regulations, according to Bloomberg, should be the president's "number one agenda."

Bloomberg argued that not only should Obama pursue reforms that fall under his power as chief executive, like keeping the background-check system up to date, but he should also make at least some effort to push politically sensitive legislation through Congress.

"The president campaigned back in 2008 on a bill that would prohibit assault weapons," said Bloomberg. "We've got to really question whether military-style weapons with big magazines belong on the streets of America in this day and age. Nobody questions the Second Amendment's right to bear arms, but I don't think the founding fathers had the idea that every man, woman and child could carry an assault weapon. And I think the president, through his leadership, could get a bill like that through Congress. But at least he's got to try."

(Later in the show, California Senator Dianne Feinstein said she will introduce a new assault weapons ban on the first day of the new Congress in January.)

"This myth that the N.R.A. can destroy political careers is just not true," he said, pointing to Obama's re-election, which the N.R.A. opposed, and adding, "If Congress wasn't so afraid of the N.R.A ... we'd all better off."

He also dismissed the argument, made by Colorado's Democratic governor John Hickenlooper after the Aurora "Dark Knight" movie theater massacre, that, in the absence of guns, those seeking to inflict harm would just turn to other methods, like bombs.

"There's always going to be bad people and ... you can strangle somebody with your hands, that doesn't mean everybody should have an assault weapon," said Bloomberg.

In the absence of political leadership in Washington, Bloomberg said, he's ready to act.

By dint of co-founding and underwriting Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg has already made himself the modern-day face of the gun control movement.

This year, he spent millions aiding the campaigns of pro-gun-control candidates, and he plans to put more money and time into the cause once his final term as mayor expires at the end of next year.

When "Meet the Press" host David Gregory asked Bloomberg just how much he was willing to spend on gun control, the mayor wouldn't give a specific number or timeline, but hinted at scale.

"Well, I don't know how to answer that, but when I care about something, I care about something," said Bloomberg. "I think I have an obligation as an American and as a citizen, as a human being, to help others. Smoking is gonna kill a billion people this century. I put $600 million of my own money into trying to stop the tobacco companies from getting kids to smoke and convincing adults that it's not in their health. That's one issue. Who knows with this."