NRA strikes back at Bloomberg

The National Rifle Association is fighting back against former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the powerful gun lobby moves to counter an aggressive midterm push from proponents of stronger federal firearm regulations.

In addition to shelling out well over $10 million on political spending this election cycle, the NRA has launched a campaign to make Bloomberg the face of the gun control movement and label him as a billionaire “elitist” bent on banning guns.

“We look at it as an opportunity to expose the real Mike Bloomberg to the American people,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. “The American people will see he is the ultimate hypocrite who tries to ensure people don’t have the right to defend themselves, while he surrounds himself with armed security 24 hours a day.”

On Tuesday, the group launched its latest attack advertisement aimed at Bloomberg. The national spot, paid for with a $2 million ad buy, features a survivor of violent crime telling Bloomberg, “you do not have the right to tell me how to defend myself.”

The effort — complete with the national advertising campaign, a website and a fundraising solicitation — comes as a gun control group bankrolled by Bloomberg mounts its own effort to influence this year’s races.

Bloomberg has committed to spending $50 million through the group Everytown for Gun Safety, backing candidates viewed as helpful to the drive for universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and other firearm restrictions.

Everytown, a coalition of groups including Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, has emerged as a leading force in the gun control movement, in large part thanks to Bloomberg’s largesse.

The group’s Gun Sense Voter campaign is predicated on polling that shows overwhelming public support for stronger protections that have failed to gain traction in Congress.

“There’s a disconnect between the 90 percent of voters who support that and the elected leaders who are not voting for it,” Everytown spokeswoman Erika Soto Lamb said.

Borrowing from the NRA’s playbook, Everytown began asking lawmakers to detail their positions on gun control in July.

Last week, the group announced endorsements of more than 100 state and federal office seekers, including several Democrats embroiled in tough races that could decide control of the Senate.

Among them are incumbent Democratic Sens. Kay HaganKay HaganPhoto finish predicted for Trump, Clinton in North Carolina Are Senate Republicans facing an election wipeout? Clinton's lead in NC elevates Senate race MORE (N.C.) and Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuTrump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race Louisiana needs Caroline Fayard as its new senator La. Senate contender books seven-figure ad buy MORE (La.), as well as Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce BraleyCriminal sentencing bill tests McConnell-Grassley relationship Trump's VP list shrinks Vernon wins Iowa House Dem primary MORE (D-Iowa), who is battling for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (D-Iowa).

Also on the list is Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallColorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Energy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium MORE (D-Colo.), who is vying to ward off a challenge from Rep. Cory GardnerCory GardnerGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Administration vows 'proportional' response to Russian hack Trump denies Russia behind attack, despite fed investigation saying otherwise MORE (R-Colo.) in a state where gun control has become a particularly thorny issue. Last year, for instance, a successful push for stricter controls in the legislature led to the recall of two Democratic state senators.

The NRA’s campaign, which puts Bloomberg’s face on the Everytown effort, includes a heavy focus on Colorado. The victim in the commercial that began airing Tuesday is a Coloradan, and the state was featured prominently in a previous spot blasting Bloomberg as out of touch.

“Liberals call this flyover country. It’s an insult,” a voice in the ad declares. “But nobody insults your life quite like this guy — Michael Bloomberg: billionaire, elitist, hypocrite. Bloomberg tries to ban your snack foods, your soda and, most of all, your guns.”

The multimillion-dollar brawl comes at time when conventional wisdom says gun control is a nonstarter in Congress. President Obama proclaimed the issue a top second-term priority after the 2012 mass shooting in at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school rekindled a national debate on gun violence.

But Congress failed to approve any of several gun control bills introduced in response to the massacre, with the biggest defeat coming with the collapse last spring of a bipartisan Senate measure that would have required background checks for all commercial gun sales. 

The amendment, offered in April by Sens. Joe ManchinJoe Manchin5 takeaways from the Pa. Senate debate Trump questions hound endangered Republican Dems to McConnell: Pass 'clean' extension of Iran sanctions MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), seen as gun control advocates’ best chance for a victory in the current political landscape, fell six votes short of approval.

Undeterred, the Bloomberg-backed group is taking a long view of the debate over gun control. Soto Lamb said the initiative would endure well beyond the 2014 elections.

“The NRA has been doing this for 30 years, and we’re just beginning to meet them where they are,” she said.

For its part, the NRA is confronting the challenge head-on.

The political dynamics now standing in the way of more stringent firearm regulations can quickly shift, and Arulanandam said the NRA is resolved to influence any tight race in support of candidates who staunchly support gun rights.

“I think the gun control lobby has proven themselves very adept at exploiting tragedy to push their political agenda,” he said. “It’s a misnomer or inaccurate for anyone to suggest that gun control is dead.”