Both sides of gun debate make public appeals

AP File Photo

Wayne LaPierre, left, CEO of the National Rifle Association and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right. Two of the loudest voices in the gun debate say it's up to voters now to make their position known to Congress. LaPierre and Bloomberg claim their views on guns have the support of the overwhelming number of Americans.

WASHINGTON — Two of the loudest voices in the gun debate say it's up to voters now to make their position known to Congress.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and National Rifle Associate Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre claim their opposing views on guns have the support of the overwhelming number of Americans. They are looking at the next two weeks as critical to the debate, when lawmakers head home to hear from constituents ahead of next month's anticipated Senate vote on gun control.

Bloomberg, a former Republican-turned-independent, has just sunk $12 million for Mayors Against Illegal Guns to run television ads and phone banks in 13 states urging voters to tell their senators to pass legislation requiring universal background checks for gun buyers.

"We demanded a plan and then we demanded a vote. We've got the plan, we're going to get the vote. And now it's incumbent on us to make our voices heard," said Bloomberg.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that legislation would likely be debated in his chamber next month that will include expanded federal background checks, tougher laws and stiffer sentences for gun trafficking and increased school safety grants. A ban on assault-style weapons was dropped from the bill, fearing it would sink the broader bill. But Reid has said that he would allow the ban to be voted on separately as an amendment. President Barack Obama called for a vote on the assault weapons ban in his radio and Internet address Saturday.

Recalling the horrific shooting three months ago at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 20 first graders and six school administrators dead, Bloomberg said it would be a great tragedy if Congress, through inaction, lost the moment to make the country safer from gun violence. Bloomberg said that 90 percent of Americans and 80 percent of NRA members support universal background checks for gun purchases.

"I don't think there's ever been an issue where the public has spoken so clearly, where Congress hasn't eventually understood and done the right thing," Bloomberg said.

But the NRA's LaPierre counters that universal background checks are "a dishonest premise." For example, mental health records are exempt from databases and criminals won't submit to the checks. Background checks, he said, are a "speed bump" in the system that "slows down the law-abiding and does nothing for anybody else."

"The shooters in Tucson, in Aurora, in Newtown, they're not going to be checked. They're unrecognizable," LaPierre said. He was referring to the 2011 shooting in a Tucson shopping center that killed six and wounded 13, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the July assault in a suburban Denver movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70. In both instances, as well as in the Newtown killings, the alleged shooters used military-style assault rifles with high-capacity ammunition magazines.

LaPierre slammed Bloomberg for the ad buy.

"He's going to find out this is a country of the people, by the people, and for the people. And he can't spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public," LaPierre said, adding, "He can't buy America."

"Millions of people" from across the country are sending the NRA "$5, $10, $15, $20 checks, saying stand up to this guy," LaPierre said, referring to Bloomberg.

LaPierre said the NRA supports a bill to get the records of those adjudicated mentally incompetent and dangerous into the background check system for gun dealers, better enforcement of federal gun laws and beefed up penalties for illegal third-party purchases and gun trafficking. Shortly after the Newtown shooting, LaPierre called for armed security guards in schools as well.

LaPierre would like to see Congress pass a law that "updates the system and targets those mentally incompetent adjudicated into the system" and forces the administration to enforce the federal gun laws.

"It won't happen until the national media gets on the administration and calls them out for their incredible lack of enforcement of these laws," LaPierre said.

In Colorado, a state with a pioneer tradition of gun ownership and self-reliance, Gov. John Hickenlooper just signed bills requiring background checks for private and online gun sales. The legislation also would ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.

"After the shootings last summer in the movie theater, we really focused on mental health first then universal background checks," Hickenlooper said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think the feeling right now around assault weapons, at least in Colorado, is that they're so hard to define what an assault weapon is."

Hickenlooper said he met with a group of protesters against the bills in Grand Junction, Colo., were "very worried about government keeping a centralized database, which I assured them wasn't going to happen." The protesters, he added, view the background checks as "just the first step in trying to take guns away."

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To hear the head of the NRA complain that somebody is spending money to influence public policy is the weirdest thing I've heard yet. Nobody spends more on lobbying than the NRA. And about those $5 contributions, why doesn't he mention the millions contributed by gun manufacturers? Have you seen the NRA headquarters? The Vatican would be envious. And as for the claim that we should be enforcing the laws already on the books, well the NRA could be more helpful if their paid for politicians weren't defunding the ATF , blocking the nomination of the head of the ATF, restricting the authority of the ATF. etc. It's like firing the police dept. then complaining about the lack of law enforcement. And criminals are not the problem. Read the news. It's the "responsible gun owners" who leave their guns lying around, who have accident after accident, who raise the suicide by gun statistics and most of all who provide cover for criminals by preventing laws which would identify who has the guns and where they have been. The NRA is not working to protect responsible gun owners they are protecting terrorists, drug gangs and gang bangers by lobbying for and passing laws that prevent law enforcement from identifying and finding the criminals and of course making the gun manufacturers very rich in the process.

Noel Foss's picture

sorry, Claire.

But I'm afraid I've got to disagree with you on a couple points.
While I agree that it's funny to see the NRA complain about somebody spending money to influence politicians, it's been equally amusing/frustrating to watch the gun control crowd decry the NRA as a special interest group while actively supporting the antics of \ Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Campaign (who are also special interest groups) for years. Despite your apparent belief that the NRA is responsible for the current violent crime rate in the US, I'm afraid that it's as simple as this: Like any special interest group, they only have influence on those willing to accept it. For every conservative politician who has a similar position on gun control to the NRA, there's a liberal one who doesn't. Maybe even more than one. The NRA's real power comes from their ability to motivate their members to turn out and vote, or to actually contact their elected officials. Yet this is decried by those who disagree with that ability to motivate their base, despite the fact that they're usually the same ones applauding the current president's ability to motivate young voters to support him and his agendas.
As for your assertion that "criminals aren't the problem," you could not be more wrong. While it's true that roughly 60% of all adult firearms deaths are by suicide, you should remember that this is more a failing of the mental health system in this country than something to do with the NRA. These are people that would have been suicidal whether they had a gun or not, and would likely have used some other method to kill themselves. As far as homicides go, the vast majority are perpetrated by young minorities in poor neighborhoods. And the majority of those people aren't buying their guns at stores or gun shows; they're obtaining them illegally.
Tell me how putting more limits on the people who are ALREADY obeying the law is going to stop the people who are already IGNORING it.
As an example, here's NY's recent legislation. 10-round magazines are allowed, but you can only have 7 rounds in them. I'm sure that the next crackhead who goes to shoot his dealer is going to make REAL sure he doesn't load 10 rounds into that magazine, because that'd be against the law.

Noel Foss's picture

Typical Associated press mislabel.

"...referring to the 2011 shooting in a Tucson shopping center that killed six and wounded 13, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the July assault in a suburban Denver movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70. In both instances, as well as in the Newtown killings, the alleged shooters used military-style assault rifles with high-capacity ammunition magazines."

The Tuscon shooter used a handgun, not a so-called "militarty-style assault weapon" when he carried out his attack. The only thing a Glock 19 has in common with an AR-15 is that they're both black.

While the idea of Universal Background Checks looks good in the news, the new law has a lot of "riders" included in it that have nothing to do with gun sales. For instance, you can't let a buddy try your gun out when you go out shooting unless it's at a licensed range, or within the area immediately surround your house. So no going down to the sandpits and firing off a few rounds and letting your friend use your gun.

Unfortunately, this will most likely end up being just another law that targets those who are already following the rules, and is largely ignored by the people already breaking them.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Michael Bloomberg is a man

Michael Bloomberg is a man with money, and a man with an ego to match. He decides how large a fountain soda can be, in everyone's better interest, he bought King Angus and his vote in the U.S. Senate, and now he is trying to buy gun control legislation with a $13 million ad campaign. Fortunately, our judicial system nixed his soda ban as unconstitutional, and now we will see how his foray into the gun control arena goes. Hopfully, his money can't buy the demise of the Second Amendment. When our founding fathers crafted the Constitution they very likely had people like Bloomberg and Obama in mind. Criminals will not stop being criminals, and lunatics will not stop their insane acts just because there are more laws on the books.

Robert McQueeney's picture


Please, can we all focus on laws against the criminals who use guns in their crimes?

How about we place the responsibility on criminals who use guns in committing crimes? Let's not blame anyone or anything else other than those criminals who use guns in their crimes, and go after them?


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