New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has come under scrutiny for sponsoring a number of anti-gun ads — pundits are accusing him of politicizing the gun debate for his own gain. The ads feature a bearded young man recalling his family tradition of hunting, turning around a common motif used by the pro-gun movement. The ad reads, “Tell Congress — don’t protect criminals, vote to protect gun rights and our families with comprehensive background checks.”
The ad campaign was sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization co-chaired by Bloomberg. The ads explain the necessity of background checks and encourage viewers to demand action from their congressmen.
These television ads, which will air this week, target specific states such as Arizona, North Carolina and Pennsylvania during the congressional holiday recess. Bloomberg has donated $12 million to finance the campaign.
“These ads bring the voices of Americans, who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks, into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence,” Bloomberg said in a statement issued by the organization. “We demanded a plan and we got one. We demanded a vote and we’ll get one. Now we’re doing what we can to pass a bill that will save lives.”
In addition to ads, Mayors Against Illegal Guns led a National Day to Demand Action on Thursday, March 28. This included more than 100 events across the country designed to generate calls to members of Congress.
The group’s website has called it the largest gun violence prevention advocacy event in history and has generated thousands of calls.
Despite these successes, some argue that Bloomberg is trying to buy votes with a bad political strategy.
“I am not sure having the liberal mayor from New York coming in some of these states is going to do anyone any good,” said Jim Manley, a former top adviser and spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid, who is also the majority leader.
Bloomberg defended his actions, saying he is acting with public support. According to a March 2013 Quinnipiac University poll, 88 percent of American voters support universal background checks for gun purchases.
“Nobody’s buying votes,” Bloomberg told CBS News on March 25. “What you are doing is you’re getting access with this money to tell the public the facts.”
As Bloomberg prepares to end his three-term run as mayor, insiders like Howard Wolfson, a top aide to Bloomberg who ran the Independence USA super PAC, hint that he appears to be shifting his focus to national politics.
“This is just the beginning,” Wolfson told The Washington Post in November. “On issues like guns and education, Mike Bloomberg is poised to play an even bigger role in advancing a mainstream agenda and influencing elections.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 2 print edition. Lesley Greenberg is a staff writer. Email her at c[email protected]