New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his group Mayors Against Illegal Guns this week launched a $12 million ad campaign supporting increased background checks for gun purchases. The ads, which will air in 13 states, are being targeted at senators to encourage them to back stricter legislation up for consideration in Congress.
Bloomberg, a powerful and outspoken national figure on reducing gun violence, is rolling out the ads in hopes of persuading senators to support proposed gun control legislation that is losing steam. The bill will be up for debate when Congress returns from its Easter Recess in April, and Bloomberg hopes the ads in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arizona will encourage support for stricter background checks. The New York City mayor said Sunday on Meet the Press that Americans clearly support the measure, and Congress must follow the will of the people:
I think I have a responsibility, and I think you and all of your viewers have responsibilities, to try to make this country safer for our families and for each other … If 90 percent of the public want something, and their representatives vote against that, common sense says, they are going to have a price to pay for that.
But some say Bloomberg's ad offensive may have the unintended consequence of helping Republicans by making swing state Democrats even more vulnerable. The ads are aimed at both Democrats and Republicans, but Democratic senators like Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas are all likely to face stiff Republican challenges in 2014. The gun ads may increase backing for their opponents in states with a history of strong Second Amendment support, and could jeopardize Democratic control of the Senate after the midterm election.
Pryor already appeared to be distancing himself from Bloomberg when he tweeted "I've gotten a lot of questions about NYC Mayor gun ad. My response? I don't take gun advice from the Mayor of NYC. I listen to Arkansans." Pryor and other targeted Democrats could paint Bloomberg as a big city politician who makes it his goal to restrict people's rights by pointing to the mayor's recent efforts to curb smoking and soda consumption in New York.
The National Rifle Association plans to start an ad campaign of its own to target Congress in the next few weeks, but it acknowledged it likely won't spend as much as Bloomberg. Chris W. Cox, an NRA lobbyist, said they don't need to match the mayor's spending dollar for dollar:
What he is going to find out is that Americans don't want to be told by some elitist billionaire what they can eat, drink and they damn well don't want to be told how, when and where they can protect their families.
Bloomberg does have a history of pumping money into close races around the country in an attempt to eke out wins for pro-gun control candidates. He helped defeat Democratic Rep. Joe Baca of California, spending more than $3.3 million to oust the representative with an "A" rating from the NRA. Bloomberg's super PAC also spent more than $2 million on the special election to fill Rep. Jesse Jackson's seat in Illinois, which was won by gun-control advocate Robin Kelly.
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