New York: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a new $12 million (Dh44 million) television ad campaign that will push senators in key states to back gun control efforts, including comprehensive background checks.
Bloomberg, one of the most prominent gun control proponents in the country, announced the ad campaign by Mayors Against Illegal Guns on Saturday — just days after Senate Democrats touted stronger background checks while acknowledging insufficient support to a ban assault-style weapons.
“These ads bring the voices of Americans — who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks — into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence,” Bloomberg said in a statement issued by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group he co-founded in 2006 and that now has more than 800 mayors from around the US.
President Barack Obama vowed to push for tighter gun controls laws in the wake of the December massacre of 20 young children at a Connecticut elementary school, by a shooter using a military-style assault rifle. Most congressional Republicans, some Democrats and a deep-pocketed pro-gun lobby remain opposed to stricter gun laws.
Many Americans see gun ownership as a legitimate option for self-defence and a basic right enshrined in by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. Some of those promoting stricter laws have taken care to show that they are not challenging the right of citizens to own guns.
In two ads posted on website of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a gun owner holds a rifle while sitting on the back of a pickup truck.
In one ad, the man says he’ll defend the Second Amendment but adds “with rights come responsibilities”. The ad then urges viewers to tell Congress to support background checks.
In the other ad, the man, a hunter, says “background checks have nothing to do with taking guns away from anyone.” The man then says closing loopholes will stop criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining weapons.
The Senate is scheduled to debate federal gun control legislation next month after returning from the Easter Recess. On March 28, the group plans for more than 100 events nationwide in support of passing gun control legislation that includes background checks.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns and other gun-control advocates frequently cite a mid-1990s study that suggested about 40 per cent of US gun transfers were conducted by private sellers not subject to federal background checks. Based on 2011 FBI data, the group estimates 6.6 million firearms transfers are made without a background check for the receiver.
A spokesman for Bloomberg could not immediately say if the $12 million was coming from Bloomberg or the mayor’s political action Committee, Independence USA. The New York Times, which first reported the ad campaign on Saturday night, said Bloomberg was bankrolling the ad buy.
A spokesman for the National Rifle Association, the country’s most powerful pro-gun group, blasted Bloomberg and the new ads, saying NRA members and supporters would be calling senators directly and urging them to vote against proposed gun control legislation.
“What Michael Bloomberg is trying to do is ... intimidate senators into not listening to constituents and instead pledge their allegiance to him and his money,” said spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.
Bloomberg, a billionaire, has long supported efforts to curb gun violence. Last month, Independence USA poured more than $2 million into ads supporting an Illinois state lawmaker who won a special primary and ran partly on a platform of supporting tougher gun restrictions.
The new ads will air in 13 states the group believes are divided on gun control.