After defeat in Congress, Bloomberg brings gun control fight to the states

Bloomberg's group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has shifted strategy to local politicians and piecemeal reform

Topics: Guns, Gun Violence, Gun Control, Michael Bloomberg, , ,

Undeterred by Congress’ defeat of gun control in April, Michael Bloomberg has taken his campaign for stricter gun regulations to state capitals across the country. Bloomberg’s reform group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has dispatched its advocates to canvas the country in a grassroots effort to build mainstream support for reform and pressure local politicians to act.

One tip the group’s representatives are given as they meet with state representatives from Oregon to Nevada: maybe don’t mention Bloomberg’s name once you’re there, as the New York Times reports:

In Washington State, where a Bloomberg-backed background-checks bill was defeated in the Legislature this year, the coalition is assisting with a ballot initiative on the same issue. In Oregon, the group has hired lobbyists to revive long-stalled legislation to regulate private gun sales. In Colorado, where the coalition helped pass stricter gun laws this year, it is preparing to defend lawmakers against a recall effort pushed by the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Bloomberg faces an uphill battle — many of the states he seeks to influence are places where guns are dear and New York is not. He is going up against well-organized networks of gun enthusiasts, with scores of rural voters eager to block his every move.

Some lobbyists working on behalf of the mayors’ coalition say they have been given a piece of cautionary advice: avoid mentioning Mr. Bloomberg’s name, for fear that it could alienate potential allies. “I don’t think we’ve ever used the word Bloomberg,” Mr. Griffin said.

Although the coalition says it did not instruct lobbyists to omit the mayor’s name, it is clear that Mr. Bloomberg’s high profile has made him the focal point of much of the anger that has accompanied the debate over gun rights.

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While the New York City mayor may not be popular in certain parts of the country, he can — or, more specifically, the considerable financial resources of Mayors Against Illegal Guns can — be persuasive, as the Times notes:

In Carson City, lawmakers credit Mr. Bloomberg with jump-starting a gun bill that had stalled in Nevada, even though both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by Democrats. The bill, modest by standards in more liberal states, would require criminal background checks in private gun sales, including at gun shows and online; currently, background checks are mandatory only if a gun is purchased through a licensed dealer.

The Nevada measure passed the state Senate in May and is expected to pass the Assembly.

Las Vegas Democrat and sponsor of Nevada’s background checks bill state Sen. Justin C. Jones hopes Bloomberg remains involved in the state’s battle over gun reform; the reason why should come as little surprise to anyone familiar with American politics: “It never hurts,” Jones told the Times, “to have friends with money.”

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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