By Meghashyam Mali - 03/24/13 04:35 PM EDT
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) pledged that supporters of an assault-weapons ban would get a vote in Congress.
“We've been fighting since 2007 to get a vote. We are going to have a vote for sure on assault weapons and we're going to have a vote on background checks,” said the prominent gun control advocate in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s "Meet the Press."
Bloomberg’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced earlier this week that the Senate would vote on a gun control bill after returning from Easter recess. Reid, though, decided not to include a measure for a federal assault weapons ban, a key provision backed by the White House and Bloomberg.
Reid said Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) proposal could have hampered passage of other gun control measures. Efforts to heighten restrictions on gun ownership face an uphill struggle, with strong opposition from GOP lawmakers and the nation’s gun lobby.
Bloomberg will also personally fund a $12 million national campaign to target swing state senators to back gun control. The ads are slated to run in 13 states over the Easter recess. But the Bloomberg ads will press for background check legislation, which gun reform advocates believe has the best chance of becoming law, making no mention of assault weapons.
Bloomberg defended his efforts on gun control Sunday, saying that he had a "responsibility" as a public official to push for safer gun laws.
"I think I have a responsibility, and I think you and all of your viewers have responsibilities, to try to make this country safer for our families and for each other," he said. "And if I can do that by spending some money and taking the NRA from being the only voice to being one of the voices, so the public can really understand the issues, then I think my money would be well spent, and I think I have an obligation to do that."
Bloomberg's move, though, attracted a sharp rebuke from National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
LaPierre, who also appeared on NBC, said Bloomberg would realize he "can't buy America."
"He can't spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public. They don't want him in their restaurants, they don't want him in their homes. They don't want him telling them what food to eat; they sure don't want him telling them what self-defense firearms to own," said LaPierre.
Bloomberg met on Thursday with Vice President Biden to discuss gun control efforts, and at a joint press conference warned that voters would watch Congress closely and expect action on gun control after last December’s tragic mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.
“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,” said Bloomberg on Sunday.
“If 90 percent of the public want something, and their representatives vote against that, common sense says they are going to have a price to pay for that. The public is going to eventually wake up and say, ‘I want to put in office somebody that will do the things that I think are necessary for this country,’ ” he added.
Gun control advocates believe that legislation to mandate checks on all firearm purchasers has the best chance of passing Congress this session, with an assault weapons ban facing a much tougher fight.
President Obama, though, has made calls for an assault weapons ban a key element of his proposals to stem gun violence. In his weekly address, he again urged lawmakers to vote on a series of gun measures, including bans on the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity clips.
“These ideas shouldn’t be controversial — they’re common sense,” Obama said. “They’re supported by a majority of the American people. And I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote.”
—This story was published at 7:35 a.m. and has been updated.