The head of the National Rifle Association (NRA) slammed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) on Sunday, accusing him of trying to “buy America” by spending $12 million on a massive advertising campaign advocating for stricter gun laws.
“He's going to find out this is a country of the people, by the people, and for the people,” said NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And he can't spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public.
“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. And he can't buy America. He's so reckless in terms of his comments on this whole gun issue.”
Bloomberg this weekend announced a massive advertising campaign aimed at drumming up support during the congressional recess for tighter gun restrictions in the states of 13 key senators, who will face a vote on several gun control measures when they return next month.
Bloomberg, a billionaire and co-chairman of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group, said on Sunday that it’s his responsibility to provide advocates for stricter gun control with a national voice that counteracts the NRA’s messaging and influential lobbying efforts.
“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,” said Bloomberg on “Meet the Press.”
“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.”
The ad campaign, much of which Bloomberg has personally funded, will encourage people to call their senators and pressure them to vote in favor of tougher gun laws, according to the mayor.
The ads will target Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Susan Collins (Maine), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.). It will also target Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.).
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged to hold a vote on gun legislation when the Senate returns from its Easter recess.
Reid said the bill would include three provisions that have been reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee: a measure requiring background checks of nearly every gun sale, including most private purchases; a measure that would provide $40 million in grants to schools for security upgrades; and a measure increasing penalties for people who purchase guns on behalf of people barred from buying them.
The background check bill that is currently scheduled for the Senate to vote on is sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and was reported by Democrats along party lines. The measure would require background checks for all private gun sales, except those between immediate family members.
Republicans say that gun sales between friends should also be exempt. They also object to a requirement for the seller to keep a record of the purchase.
On Sunday, LaPierre argued that a move towards requiring background checks for most private sales would be useless because the federal government does not prosecute many of the people who fail to pass their background checks, and some states do not submit complete mental health and criminal history records into the national database.
“The whole thing, universal checks, is a dishonest premise,” said LaPierre. “There's not a bill on the Hill that provides a universal check. Criminals aren't going to be checked.”
“It's not accurate, it's not instant,” said LaPierre of the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS). “The mental health records are not in the system, and they don't prosecute any of the criminals that they catch. It's a speed bump for the law abiding. It slows down the law abiding and does nothing to anybody else.”
Reid said he hoped that ongoing talks between Republicans and Democrats attempting to agree on a bipartisan version of a background check bill would progress over the break. The Democratic leader said he would be open to replacing the Schumer bill with a new bipartisan measure if they reached a consensus.
A vote on amendments banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and new mental health provisions is also expected, according to Reid.
The House has not moved on any major gun legislation this year and has put the onus on the upper chamber to act first. The assault weapons ban is not expected to pass Congress because of Republican opposition to the measure.