Michael Bloomberg Takes On NRA With $50 Million Investment In Gun Control, But Who Will Win?
Although former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg left City Hall more than four months ago, he's shown no signs of slowing down his political activism. For his first post-mayor initiative, Bloomberg will bankroll grassroots gun-safety activists to create a lobbying network that could potentially go head-to-head with the National Rifle Association. But just how much money does it take to challenge the NRA, one of the largest and well-funded nonprofits and lobbying associations in the United States?
Bloomberg, a long-time opponent of guns rights, has invested $50 million in Everytown for Gun Safety, a network of gun-control advocates that builds upon two other Bloomberg-funded organizations, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) and Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense in America. By consolidating these coalitions under one umbrella organization, Bloomberg hopes the network will become as powerful as — and one day out-muscle — the NRA.
It's a mighty hope, considering that the NRA spent a record-breaking amount on lobbying in the first three months of 2013: $800,000. Since 1998, the NRA has dropped more than $30 million in lobbying, while its legislative action committee has put about $150 million toward campaigns over the last two decades. And so far in 2014, the NRA has collected $14 million, with the legislative action committee already spending nearly $40,000 in independent expenditures on federal elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
But Bloomberg is also no stranger to the lobbying game. The former mayor is known for going after pro-gun democrats with attack ads while shelling out hefty payments for anti-gun politicians. For instance, Bloomberg donated $350,000 in 2013 to two Colorado state senators who supported measures to reduce gun violence.
Although New York is already a firmly anti-gun state, Bloomberg instated several stringent gun control laws in New York City during his tenure, including raising the minimum mandatory sentence of possession with an illegal handgun. He was also a vocal supporter of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (also known as the NY SAFE Act), which bans guns with high-capacity magazines, requires a registry of assault weapons and mandates background checks for all gun sales, among other restrictions. The act continues to be controversial among pro-gun advocates.
Throughout the years, Bloomberg was able to get many high-profile politicians on-board with his gun safety measures. In 2006, Bloomberg cofounded MAIG with then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. By the end of 2013, MAIG had more than 1,000 U.S. mayors on its roster.
However, many of Bloomberg's colleagues were not always as enthusiastic about gun rights — or messing with the NRA. Earlier this year, John Tkazyik, mayor of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., left the organization, writing in an op-ed for The Poughkeepsie Journal that MAIG promoted policies that violated Second Amendment rights. Tkazyik added that 50 mayors have left the organization, though Bloomberg has yet to publicly confirm that number.
In an op-ed for Politico magazine in December 2013, Bloomberg and Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense in America, outlined their mission for Everytown, which will focus more on background checks than all-out gun bans:
Closing dangerous loopholes in the background check system and strengthening enforcement of the laws already on the books is an uphill battle. For decades the gun lobby has had the field to itself, fear-mongering to raise money and sell firearms, and claiming any measure to keep guns out of the hands of criminals is a step on the way to gun confiscation, which is of course nonsense.
The NRA has yet to release a statement on Bloomberg and his new initiative.
Image: Getty Images; NRA