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Bloomberg to Obama: Gun control should be ‘number one agenda’

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday called on President Obama to make tightening gun restrictions his "number one" agenda item in the wake of a shooting massacre in Connecticut that took the lives of 20 school children.

“I think the president should console the country, but he’s the commander-in-chief as well as the consoler-in-chief,” Bloomberg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “It’s time for the president, I think, to stand up and lead and tell this country what we should do.”

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“This should be his number one agenda [item],” he added.

Bloomberg, an independent who left the Republican Party in 2007, has become one of the most outspoken advocates for tighter gun restrictions in the nation. 

He formed a super-PAC in the late stages of the 2012 campaign, and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) has said he believes Bloomberg’s heavy spending against him over his opposition to gun control helped swing the race to his opponent.

The billionaire New York mayor endorsed Obama in the election, but he has been a harsh critic of the president’s unwillingness to spend political capital to push for gun-control measures, particularly after mass shootings during his tenure.

On Friday, Obama called for “meaningful action” to be taken after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But the White House has yet to specify what that entails.

Bloomberg highlighted a number of measures he has advocated for years: reinstating the federal assault weapons ban, closing the so-called “gun show loophole,” expanding and updating the federal background check database and more aggressive enforcement of current gun laws. Other officials have also called for limitation on high-capacity magazines in automatic weapons.

Appearing on “Meet the Press” after Bloomberg, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said a bill re-instating the assault weapons ban would be introduced in the Senate and the House on the first day of the new Congress in January. The assault weapons ban enacted in 1994 lapsed a decade later.

The president “is going to have a bill to lead on,” Feinstein said. The measure, she said, would aim to take “weapons of war off the streets of our cities.” “It can be done,” she added.

“It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession, not retroactively, prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets,” Feinstein said of her proposal. 

The Supreme Court in 2008 ruled that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to bear arms, but Bloomberg said the decision allowed “reasonable” restrictions on gun possession.

Bloomberg said Congress should take action, but he repeatedly put the onus on Obama. “The president, in my view, is the one who has to lead on this,” he said. The mayor said he endorsed Obama, in part, because he had “the right views” on gun control. But he added: “The president has to translate these views into action.”

Bloomberg disputed the conventional wisdom that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a stranglehold on Congress, preventing any new gun restrictions from advancing.

“This myth that the NRA can destroy political careers is just not true,” he said.

He pointed to legislative races in 2012 in which he contributed to candidates that the NRA opposed. Bloomberg said his candidates won four out of the seven campaigns.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) appeared on several Sunday shows and pushed for the assault weapons ban to be reinstated. He said that while Connecticut has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation, the lack of federal legislation undermined them. Malloy also pointed to gun manufacturers who could use different descriptive terms to define weapons and avoid state bans on assault weapons.