Bloomberg to spend $50 million to challenge NRA on gun safety
(CNN) — Michael Bloomberg is investing a chunk of his personal fortune to minimize the influence of the National Rifle Association.
The former New York City mayor pledged $50 million to his new group Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella organization for his two other gun control groups: Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It aims to make the political climate more supportive of gun control.
The new organization plans to compete against the NRA by adopting its playbook. The NRA has built an impressive and effective organization that touts millions of members, a robust lobbying organization and a massive campaign arm.
“You’ve got to work at it piece by piece,” Bloomberg told the The New York Times.
In its grass-roots operation, Everytown plans to increase its membership from 1.5 million to 2.5 million this year to implement its education and mobilization efforts. The group will focus on 15 states that have liberal gun laws, including Texas, Montana and Indiana. States that have advanced gun control initiatives will also receive attention, including Colorado and Washington.
“The NRA should be afraid,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. Women, and more particularly mothers, will be the key demographic in the outreach to curb gun violence.
“Moms are afraid that our children will be taken away. In the end, that’s the emotion that’s going to win.”
But influencing those in charge of writing gun policy will be the ultimate goal of the organization, which is also creating a political action committee to elect gun safety candidates to office and a 501(c)(4), an IRS classification used to raise unlimited amounts of money to influence voters. It aims to motivate a million pro-gun safety voters to go to the polls in November.
In addition, like the NRA, the organization will submit a gun safety questionnaire to candidates and keep a score card of how elected officials vote on gun-related issues.
“If the candidate doesn’t support gun reform, we won’t support you,” Watts said.
With an infusion of cash from Bloomberg, matching the NRA’s financial heft will be a little less daunting. The NRA has spent more than $30 million lobbying elected officials since 1998. Its efforts have been very successful in Congress over the past decade, defeating attempts to ban assault weapons and expand background checks.
On the electioneering side of the influence game, the NRA’s political action committee has spent nearly $150 million on campaigns since 1990. Already in the first two months of this midterm election year, the powerful gun group raised $14 million, according to public data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
President of Everytown, John Feinblatt, said the group’s 34,000 donors will also play a critical role in rivaling the NRA.
“I don’t want to lay blame anywhere, but it is a reality that the gun lobby has an incredible amount of political influence with members of Congress in Washington,” Mark Kelly, a prominent gun control advocate, told CNN in December. Kelly’s wife is former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded in a shooting in Arizona in 2011.
“I mean, it’s very clear that many members take their cues on this issue from the gun lobby,” he said.
The NRA has little to say about Bloomberg’s pledge, for now.
“See you in Indianapolis next week. We’ll have a lot more to say then,” spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told CNN. He was referring to the group’s annual conference, which takes place next week in Indianapolis.
Bloomberg’s activism for gun safety increased after repeated mass shootings. His efforts to expand background checks after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School failed to pass either the House or the Senate, despite pressure from the Obama administration.
The organization wants to expand background checks, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, crack down on gun trafficking and educate parents about the safe storage of guns.
By Leigh Ann Caldwell, Kevin Bohn and Ed Payne CNN