Bloomberg demands Obama make gun control his ‘first order of business’

Bloomberg at City Hall. (via NYC.gov)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg today demanded President Barack Obama and Congress tackle gun violence at the start of the new year, at the same time they're trying to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff.

"If Congress and the president can't focus on two things at once, who on earth did we elect?" Bloomberg said, adding that he endorsed Obama "because he said he believes in rational use of guns in this country and I expect him to do exactly that."

(The mayor framed his endorsement, which came on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, differently at the time.)

The purpose of the press conference was to announce the release of 34 videos featuring testimony from people whose lives have been impacted by gun violence.

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The videos will be delivered to every single member of Congress at the start of the year.

Flanked by invidivuals who made testimonials, Bloomberg, who co-founded and funds Mayors Against Illegal Guns, went on to propose a three-part legislative agenda and recommend that Congress pass it.

First, he urged Congress to pass the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would require all gun sales, including the more than 40 percent classified as private sales, involve background checks.

Second, he called for a new assault weapons ban to replace the one that expired in 2004.

"I think it should be illegal to have a weapon whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people," he said.

Third, he thinks that gun trafficking should be made a felony.

"We here urge the president to include all three of these steps in any legislative package he sends to Congress, and we urge him to assemble a legislative package quickly so that gun violence can be the first order of business that the new Congress takes up when it convenes in January."

The mayor also outlined some steps the president can take without the support of the Republican House, which has shown itself resistant to anything that might earn it the wrath of the National Rifle Association.

Among other things, Bloomberg urged Obama to name a new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives using a recess appointment, thereby avoiding the need for congressional approval.

The bureau hasn't had a confirmed director in six years.

He also urged the federal government to step up prosecutions of "gun criminals" who lie during their background checks in order to acquire weapons.

According to the mayor's office, in 2009, of the 71,000 people who allegedly lied on their background checks, only 77 were prosecuted.

During the question-and-answer session that followed, a reporter asked Bloomberg what he thought of New York Times columnist David Brooks' argument that his status as the face of gun control is "counterproductive."

"One of the problems with this debate; it’s become a values war," said Brooks during a Sunday appearance on "Meet the Press." "It’s perceived as urban versus rural. And, frankly, it’s perceived as an attack on the lifestyle of rural people by urban people. And I admire Mayor Bloomberg enormously—there’s probably no politician I agree with more—but it’s counterproductive to have him as the spokesperson for the gun law movement. There has to be more respect and more people, frankly, from rural and red America who are participants in this."

"Number one, I'm an American," responded the mayor today. "I'm a human being. So I certainly have standing to say what I think. Number two, I am the mayor of the largest city."

The mayor is an outspoken supporter of stricter gun laws, and, as co-founder and funder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg has hinted time and again that, once his third term expires at the end of next year, he will devote even more energy and resources to lobbying for gun control.

Asked today if he would match the N.R.A. in spending, the mayor said, "I have no idea, but I'm gonna do what I think is appropriate and try to impact the dialogue. Shame on me if I don't."