Bloomberg takes aim at gun lobby with $50M advocacy group

Initiative's target is the powerful pro-gun lobby, which pumps millions of dollars into the US election cycle

Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, who as New York City mayor was one of the most high-profile advocates for firearms regulation, plans to pump $50 million of his own money into a new initiative aimed at countering the electoral influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Bloomberg's group, called Everytown for Gun Safety, will focus on state and local lawmakers, "corporate boards, and state and federal elections — fields of play formerly occupied almost solely by the gun lobby," according to a statement. 

The initiative plans to use campaign contributions, advertising and field operations to act as a balance to organizations like the NRA that spend millions of dollars annually to back gun-rights supporters.

"This is the beginning of a major new campaign to reduce the gun violence that plagues communities across the country," Bloomberg said in a statement. "There is no question that more needs to be done to tackle this deadly problem."

Gun control advocates need to learn from the NRA, which says it has nearly 5 million members, and punish those politicians who fail to support their agenda, including Democrats, Bloomberg told The New York Times.

"They say, 'We don't care. We're going to go after you,'" he said of the NRA. He added: "We've got to make them afraid of us." 

The NRA, the largest U.S. lobby group for gun rights, spent $20 million in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign data. Bloomberg made nearly $14 million in federal campaign contributions for gun-control candidates in the 2012 elections.

Expanding background checks

Bloomberg told NBC's "Today" show that he did not view the $50 million investment as a "heavy political lift." 

"Thirty-one thousand Americans either get murdered or commit suicide with illegal guns. That's the heavy lift," he said. 

The initiative will focus on expanding background checks for gun buyers at state and national levels, rather than on sweeping federal weapons bans. 

President Barack Obama's plan for broader background checks, along with proposals for a ban on military-style assault rifles and limits on ammunition capacity, failed in Congress, where Republicans oppose stricter gun laws and many Democrats are reluctant to anger voters.

Inability to push through reform came despite several recent high-profile shootings, including the killing of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that made headlines worldwide.

Bloomberg will serve as chairman of the new gun control network, which will target 15 states and has a goal of signing up 1 million new supporters, in addition to the 1.5 million already in the two gun control groups Bloomberg funds, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 

Bloomberg told The New York Times he was proud of the work, which some critics said interfered with personal choice.

"I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I'm not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It's not even close," he told the newspaper.

Wire services 

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