Since his time as Mayor of New York ended, Michael Bloomberg has been relatively quiet for someone who is a consistent advocate and organizer for change. The billionaire, philanthropist, ex-Mayor has broken his, relatively short, silence and announced that he is going to spend $50 million to combat the National Rifle Association (NRA) and impose stricter gun laws. This is not the first time the ex-Mayor has taken on the NRA, but it is the biggest move yet to try to swing some of their power to the other side of the firearms debate. The former mayor already funds groups in support of gun reform like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Mr. Bloomberg will create a new group called, Everytown for Gun Safety, which will encompass the other groups and more, in an effort to bring the gun reform fight and legislative change to the doorsteps of the NRA.
Both political parties met this movement by the former mayor with criticism after he made his announcement and said that the group will not support anyone who is against what they stand for, regardless of political affiliation. Republicans have benefitted for years from the NRA’s funding. Added attacks on Democrats, they say, will shift the power to the Republicans and then there will be no hope of getting gun reform bills passed. The former mayor responded to these criticisms by saying he is not concerned with those issues, he is only concerned with the safety of every individual in this country and is taking a long-term approach to this cause. A representative from Everytown for Gun Safety said they want people to support candidates and legislation that protects the American people and doesn’t want parents to ever again send their child off to school and pick them up at the hospital because of guns.
Last April, shortly after the Sandyhook tragedy, there was a Senate vote on comprehensive background checks. Of the red states, there were four Democrats that voted against the legislature; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arizona and Max Baucus. Both Begich and Pryor are up for re-election this year; Heitkamp is not. These are some of the examples of Democrats who could lose their seats because of this initiative, along with the Democrat’s power in the Senate, and give more to the Republicans; who are expected not change gun laws. But Everytown for Gun Safety and their backers dismissed those notions, saying they just want change and do not feel their stance will result in loss of political careers.
Another aspect that the group wants to fight is the idea that the NRA is all-powerful and cannot be stopped. An example why this is not true is in Virginia. Tim Kaine has won every office he has run for in the state, including the Senate, and this was after the NRA spent thousands of dollars against him. He is a staunch opposer to current gun laws and has not been hurt by his stance. The same can be said for Governor Terry McAuliff, Senator Ralph Northam and Attourney General Mark Herring who all recently won in Virginia after running on an anti-gun platform.
Despite the nay-sayers, the $50 million is a very realistic number to influence change. The past few years, the NRA has spent around $20 million to support certain political parties and persons, while the Koch’s, who are aiding Republicans to take control of the Senate, have spent $30 million over the last six months alone; $50 million is nothing to scoff at. The former Mayor has a track history of throwing large sums of money at issues he believes in, and most of the times it works. $50 million can also be seen as the start-up funds as Warren Buffet has also signed on to the board for Evertytown for Gun Safety and his pockets are very deep; Tom Ridge and Michael G. Mullen have also signed on to be board members.
Larry Pratt is the executive director of Gun Owners of America. When Mr. Pratt heard what the former mayor was doing he practically laughed it off. He said he has plenty of money to spend and if he wants to spend it this way, he can, but the former mayor is spending it on the losing side of a battle. Mr. Pratt has a very narrow-minded approach the entire gun reform issue. Along with the NRA, the Gun Owners of America seem to think that comprehensive background checks means they are losing the right to bear arms. By saying Everytown for Gun Safety is fighting a battle that cannot be won is insulting and offensive. The group is trying to save lives and keep deadly firearms out of the hands of dangerous people, not take them away from everyone. 85 percent of Americans already support the comprehensive background checks and over 50 percent support limitations on large capacity magazines. The second amendment was to ensure that Americans could protect themselves against other people, there is no reason an assault rifle or other military-grade weapons would ever be necessary. Because these background checks are not comprehensive enough, individuals who are not fit to carry firearms are being given access, and innocent people are being killed. People like Larry Pratt are more concerned about themselves and only support change through half-hearted words in the wake of tragedies, but in reality oppose it through their actions and have no intention of trying to help. Mr. Bloomberg and the Everytown for Gun Safety is bringing a much-needed and vitally important fight to the NRA and organizations like Gun Owners of America.
Similar to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Everytown for Gun Safety will act as a grassroots movement that will target similar minded individuals and enlist them to spread the word and bring about change. Women and mothers are being targeted the most and the group hopes to have 2.5 million people signed up before November to help their cause; 1.5 million have already signed on. Outside of the $50 million from Mr. Bloomberg, the organization has 34,000 other donors lined up and has said they will spend as much money as this takes. The group did acknowledge that this is a marathon, not a sprint. A large indicator for the group’s effectiveness will be whether or not they achieve higher female voter turn outs, as they have been a large contributing swing demographic in recent votes.
It has been seven years since the horrific Virginia Tech shooting. Since Sandyhook Elementary there have been 60 more school shootings. 26 students and teachers tragically lost their lives almost a year and a half ago and there has been more legislatures passed to expand the right to carry firearms than there have been to reform it. But there has also been some progress made. 16 states, and the District of Columbia, have voted-in legislature for comprehensive background checks and it is already saving lives. Since it was voted-in there have been 49 percent fewer suicides with guns, 39 percent fewer intimate partners killed with guns and 38 percent fewer cops killed by guns. In Colorado alone, there have been 160 different instances of people not passing comprehensive background checks because they were ex-cons, minors or psychiatrically impaired and not deemed fit to carry a firearm. Those are 160 cases in one state alone that prevented the possibility of unnecessary loss of life.
This recent action is nothing new for Mr. Bloomberg either. He has shown time and again that he is an advocate for change and has no problem spending his money to see these initiatives come to fruition. When he was Mayor he raised close to $2 billion for New Yorkers. That included the Center for Economic Opportunity, which fights poverty, the Million Trees NYC initiative, which hopes to plant one million trees in the five boroughs of New York City, and the reformation of Governor’s Island. The former Mayor said when he was in office he was never hesitant to take on matters that would improve people’s lives, no matter how controversial or difficult it would be; he still clearly feels this way. Another interesting thing he said was that he does not understand why some people wait till they die to give away their money; he would rather be alive to see his money make a difference and aid in the progress himself. This suggests that this new movement should get all the funding it needs, plus some, which is exactly what it will take.
The push for comprehensive background checks and the ongoing battle between gun advocates and those against it is nothing new. For the longest time those in favor of keeping and making gun legislature looser have had a backing through the NRA and people like Larry Pratt from Gun Owners of America. Those against unnecessary violence and school shootings have not had a largest enough avenue to express their displeasure and make significant changes, till now. Politicians have not been able to get the job done and have shied away from the topics; in that time more shootings have occurred. The Everytown for Gun Safety initiative is what those opposed to the current gun legislature have been waiting for. If they are vigilant and continue to push then they have a great opportunity at making a real difference. Mr. Bloomberg and Everytown for Gun Safety are bringing a fight to the NRA that they have never encountered before, and it could not have come soon enough.
Opinion by Chris Dragicevich
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