Bloomberg sees ‘progress’ on guns, despite political non-reaction to Navy Yard

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Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg used the occasion of the latest mass shooting to argue that there's nothing to stop the same sort of thing from happening all over again.

"What happened this week has happened before and sadly it looks like it will happen again until we get serious about the issue of just too many guns around," Bloomberg told reporters today at City Hall.

"Since 2012, our nation has endured mass shootings in Pittsburgh, Miami, Oakland, Tulsa, Seattle, Wilmington, Aurora, Milwaukee, at Texas A&M, in Minneapolis, Brookfield, Portland, and of course, Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six faculty members were gunned down at the Sandy Hook elementary school," the mayor said. "The fact that those in Washington continue to stand by as innocent victims … are gunned down, and continue to place the interests of criminals over the lives of law-abiding citizens is a national disgrace."

Bloomberg has, by dint of his founding and funding of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, become one of the nation's foremost advocates for stricter gun control. In recent years, it has become routine for him to hold press conferences after mass shootings to rail against the inaction of Washington.

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Following the Newtown shooting, Bloomberg's advocacy earned him a seat at the table with Vice President Biden, who together sought to fashion some sort of politically palatable, congressionally passable, tightening of gun regulations. Those efforts failed.

And last week, two Bloomberg-backed Colorado state senators also failed to survive a recall effort designed to punish them for supporting the passage of post-Aurora gun control laws.

Adding to the sense of futility, this week, after a gunman killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that there were still not enough votes to pass tighter gun control laws, and Sen. Joe Manchin, who helped craft a compromise to greatly expand background checks, said he had no plans to re-introduce that legislation in the wake of the shooting.

All of which would seem to put gun control advocates in the same position they were in before Newtown, with polls showing a majority of public support for new laws, but without the means to convert that support into meaningful legislation or to effectively protect individual legislators who vote against the gun lobby.

But where others see defeat, Bloomberg cited progress.

"Number one, I think it's fair to say that we are making a lot of progress," said Bloomberg today. "And Colorado, rather than being a loss … in terms of helping the people of Colorado, it was a big win. Nineteen senators stood up to the special interest pressures and voted to pass a gun background check on all gun sales ... The truth of the matter is in Colorado, the N.R.A. lost. We got the law passed."

Nor is the mayor particularly discouraged by Congress's apparent inability to get anything done on gun control.

"Keep in mind, most of the Democrats and some of the Republicans are willing to do it," he said. "We're not that far away. And I think in the House, if you brought up a bill, if it could get it brought to the floor, it would pass with a very big majority form both parties."

That assessment contradicts the conventional wisdom, which assumes that the Republican-controlled House would be exceedingly unlikely to pass any new gun laws.

Even if Bloomberg's assessment isn't true, "What are we supposed to do? Walk away?" he asked.

To bolster his case that guns are too prevalent in American society, Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns today released another report on the growing online gun marketplace.

In an investigation of 607 people who posted ads on Armslist.com indicating they wanted to buy a gun, one in 30 had criminal records that would have prevented them from purchasing a firearm had they been subject to the kinds of background checks that were included in Manchin's bill. (Federal law does not require background checks for private, person-to-person sales.)

Armslist is the site where Radcliffe Haughton bought a gun to kill his wife Zina Daniel and two of her colleagues in a Milwaukee suburb last year.

"In the same way that you once didn't buy clothes on the internet, and now you do, we know that this market is growing tremendously," said John Feinblatt, Bloomberg's chief policy advisor. "Fourteen years ago, a Department of Justice study study showed that there were 4,000 sites that were selling guns on the internet. That, I think, study was done three months after Google was invented."