Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama and the Politics of Gun Control [UPDATED]

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UPDATED (1/15/13): On the one-month anniversary of Newtown, we heard yet more news about gun control from our mayor and president.

In Baltimore, Bloomberg attended a summit on the topic at John Hopkins University and, once again, called for more action on a national level. His speech outlined his federal advisory role we mentioned in this post a few weeks ago; in it, he made clear the specific demands he has been discussing with Vice President Joe Biden's task force.

In Washington, Obama gave the final press conference of his first term. Before chastising the House Republicans for debt ceiling stalemates, the president made clear that he would be reviewing the VP's work this week. In addition, he stressed the need for a federal assault weapons ban -- a demand that Bloomberg made clear just a few cities away.


Along with the ban, the mayor re-stressed the measures he made in his original USA Today op-ed. This includes: a more uniform system of background checks; appointing candidates to important positions in the ATF; and giving more leeway to federal agencies to collect data on gun trafficking. In a call to gun enthusiasts, he reminded the audience that the Second Amendment had no part in this conversation: "This is not a Constitutional question; it's a question of political courage." We're sure that'll go over well with the NRA.

Also, the mayor released a full report on the matter, signed by a hundred mayors from across the country. This newfound municipal universality adds even more steam to the issue. 

We'll keep you updated on what happens in Washington (and with our mayor) over the coming days.

UPDATED (1/6/13): As we roll on into January, the working group sanctioned by President Obama has been a tad busy. A few weeks ago, the White House instructed Vice President Joe Biden to hastily prepare its policy package full of gun control provisions to present to the new Congress in the days to come. This past weekend, we got a glimpse of just what they've been concocting behind closed doors.

Turns out, the White House is totally serious about doing this. And we received another tidbit of information that should come as no surprise to anyone: Mayor Bloomberg is calling the shots here.

According to reports, Biden's team, seeking advice from one of the most notoriously NRA-hated Mayors in America, has been on the phone with the Hizzoner's advisers. As a result, it turns out the platform that we'll see in the next few weeks will look similar to the one laid out by the Mayor in USA Today mid-December (of which you can find later in this post). This includes universal background checks for gun sales, a newly expanded assault weapons ban, the branding of gun trafficking as a felony and the increased use of executive privilege to direct federal agencies' resources.

Also, Bloomberg's consultancy follows the trajectory of action he's taken since Newtown. As you can follow below, we've had to update this post a few times to keep up with the Mayor, from his immediate statement after the Newtown massacre to his penned op-ed mentioned before. It's safe to say that he's using this rare conversational opportunity with gun control to the fullest.

Once the working group is ready to face the spotlight on the Hill, President Obama will flaunt the proposals on a nationwide stump. So we can definitely expect to see more of Mayor Bloomberg soon. If he's going to call the shots, he'll be there to defend them, too.

The Voice will keep you updated.

UPDATED (12/20/12): In the three days since this post originally went up, much has happened in Washington and across the country in relation to the politics of the boiling gun control debate. The NRA is expected to make "meaningful contributions" tomorrow, and Congress is preparing itself for a debate come January it hasn't had in years: the extremities of the Second Amendment and the pragmatic approaches we must take to deter violence from them. As we said on Monday, it seems as if the prophecies were right: Newtown was the tipping point.

And at the center of this recent policy development are two major figures that we zoomed in on earlier: our Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, and our President, Barack Obama.

Yesterday, the man the NRA has called an "arrogant bastard" in the past penned an op-ed in USA Today, outlining six steps he deemed vital in national gun reform. To foster his argument, the Hizzoner used his backyard as an example; a metropolis that has seen its lowest crime rates ever, due, in his opinion, to its strict gun laws.

Soon after, President Obama held a press conference in a packed room with reporters and cameras to tell the nation what had to be done in post-Newtown America.

This is what's going to happen: Vice President Joe Biden will lead a team of Cabinet members and outside groups to formulate significant gun control proposals by January. Once done, these will be sent to Congress for passage with the full backing of the executive branch. Also, in the meantime, President Obama has lent his support to a bill by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, which will reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

"Words must lead to action," President Obama told reporters. "This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issues for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside." No, that's what deficit-reduction committees are for.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg's op-ed echoed the same kind of urgency as Obama's January deadline. Basically, both messages stressed a simple credo: the longer we wait, the more bloodshed we will see. Here are the six major steps he called for:

- The assault weapons ban mentioned above

- Reform the background check system for buying a gun

- Make gun trafficking a felony

- Appoint someone to head the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau. Little known fact: The position has been (surprisingly) vacant for the past six years.

- The Justice Department needs to crack down on gun criminals

- And gun dealers

Only time will tell if the two leaders are in sync with their ideas. But, with both voices coming in loud and clear, it's evident that this explosive argument has only just begun.

Original Post:

On Friday afternoon, the horrific details coming in from Newtown immediately began to parallel a recycled conversation about gun control. With 18 children dead in the third major mass shooting of this year, spectators and major media outlets alike gawked at the insane level of violence, leading fellow Voice writer Nick Pinto to ask "Is the Newtown Massacre the Mass Shooting That Starts Us Talking About Gun Control Again?

With what has happened over the past week, several signs are pointing to the affirmative: The NRA has gone into serious hiding; Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has introduced a bill to Congress after this vacation that will severely limit the sale of assault weapons; choking back tears, President Obama mentioned in his press conference that "meaningful action" needed to be taken; and the awe is still settling over the fact that the killer, Adam Lanza, had access to a gun (which belonged to his mom) that looked like something out of Call of Duty. After 20 to 30 years of dismal progress, what happened in Newtown might be the tipping point for the unsettled issue. 

And, who else to head this conversational shift than the NRA's Most Hated Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg? The widely outspoken gun control advocate appeared on Sunday's Meet the Press to voice a single message to the White House: President Obama, it's time to take a stand.

"It's time for the president, I think, to stand up and lead," the mayor said on the program. "This should be his number one agenda. He's president of the United States, and if he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns."

According to Bloomberg, one of the ways the commander in chief can make a difference in this battle to change the conventional wisdom on the Second Amendment is to support Senator Feinstein's upcoming bill. The president has mentioned a few times that he would like to see a ban on assault weapons -- most recently, after what happened in Aurora -- and a sign-off from Obama would almost guarantee passage. Charging him with four years of inaction, Bloomberg weighed in on this bully pulpit potential as well.

"The president, through his leadership, could get a bill like that (banning assault weapons) through Congress, but at least he's got to try. That's his job," the mayor said. On the day of the shooting, he first urged the president to use this dose of urgency displayed by Newtown as a clarion call for change. These sentiments were touched upon in a letter penned by himself and Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston:

We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action.

But will the president heed Mayor Bloomberg's advice and warnings? Obama is known as a cautious strategist, pragmatically nitpicking his political battles and gravitating toward the middle on certain positions in an attempt to satisfy both conservatives and liberals. However, he still has moments where he seizes the right opportunity at the right time: We cannot forget his support of same-sex marriage heading into the election season. So, to answer the first question posed here, we have to look at the risks of a gun control move.

Heading into his second term in office, the policy scenario in Washington has drastically changed. President Obama no longer has to worry about re-election or the loss of constituencies. Also, if this Election Day was any indicator, the NRA has lost its grip on the demographics. To win a modern-day election, you're looking to guarantee the votes of women, the youth, and all those considered "non-Caucasian," not the approval of gun-toting, rank-and-file NRA members. And Bloomberg mentioned that: His super PAC funded the successful campaigns of a few anti-NRA Congressional candidates.

Another major point to keep in mind: Most of the 290 politicians who took money from NRA this year were House Republicans. Regardless if he advances a gun control agenda or not, these guys are not exactly the friends Obama is calling up for a game of golf. Who cares if he ostracizes them? They have been anti-anything-Obama-does since day one on almost every policy that has been presented by him, let alone gun control. In terms of votes, theirs have been lost since the 2010 midterms.

So maybe Bloomberg has a point. Maybe the Newtown Massacre is the tipping point for gun control. The political risks are in the president's favor. Now, it's just a matter of seizing the moment.

Until then, we'll leave you with this week's opening of Saturday Night Live. Instead of its usual comedic monologue, the variety show dedicated the time to a performance by the New York City Children's Choir of "Silent Night" to remember those lost on December 14, 2012.

[jsurico15@gmail.com/@JSuricz]


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5 comments
pvalemont
pvalemont

Time for the USA to face up to the horrible mess they have allowed their country to get into. Their President is valiantly leading the way with the international arms treaty, and it is up to the people to put pressure on the Senate to make sure it passes through. Simultaneously, they need to start on cleaning up their own back yard. This is not a case of their right to bear arms under the 2nd amendment at all, but a case of basic human rights and children's rights as outlined in international charters on human rights, to which the US is a signatory.  The human rights issue overrides the 2nd amendment issue, no question about it.  People, particularly children, have a right to feel safe in their place of work, schooling, when walking the streets, in public buildings or in their homes. In the case of Newtown, there can be do doubt that the mental health authorities and current system plus Nancy Lanza’s ridiculous and irresponsible attitude to letting Adam carry 3 of her guns at the time she was extremely worried about his  mental health, were the primary causes for these fatalities.  However, his father is not exempt from blame. I have seen a picture on the Internet of Adam Lanza at one year of age or possibly younger, playing with a real gun, surrounded by an arsenal of weapons. His Dad now says he wishes he had never been born. I am sure Adam also wishes this now, in retrospect, that he had never been born, certainly not into that family. They, the crazy gun culture of America to which they ascribed and contributed, combined with the absence of tight gun laws in the USA are entirely responsible for this incredibly cruel tragedy. There is no psychological test that can adequately safeguard the community against such a crazed gunman, and no way of knowing when they will strike, where, or at whom.  The only answer is to ban the guns out of the hands of the general populace, especially heavyweight military hardware, for whom such guns were not designed in the first place.  An ultra right wing agenda, the Doomsday Preppers movement, idolization of neo-Nazi Anders Breivik and economist Ron Paul were among the key elements that also need to be addressed in relation to the the Newtown shootings. Time for a serious re-education program in the schools and universities. Ethics, morals and community responsibility need to be addressed in a big way in regard to combating the damage being done in the homes by some parents. A time for a national symposium too on mental health, particularly as regards gene mutation for Fragile X Syndrome accompanied by Autism, and the current treatments being metred out to patients. There may be a need for a closer look at how administration of drugs is monitored and by whom.  Gun advocates, please do not reply to my post; I will not reply to you. There is nothing you can say to me in the face of this kind or horror that can possibly justify your stance. Thank you.

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tallison46
tallison46

This is nothing more than political theatre that is designed to make those that know nothing or do not understand what is happening in our country feel warm and fuzzy.

Look at Chicago where there was a total gun ban in 2012. There were more gun deaths in Chicago than all the U.S. soldiers killed in Afganistan in during the same period. What does that tell you?

 WE must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the law breaker. It's time to restore the precept that each individual is accountable for his actions....

SamPappySpiderman
SamPappySpiderman

Thanks guys.  I'm relieved to know people care.  At the grass roots, informants make policy, witchcraft, shitter law tyrannical.  Flushin' and screen doors down the creek put divorcees with their pimps.  God help the homes security and complaint against informants.  These gangs are over the shoulder of small business and do no more than wedge constitutionality against relationships.

aug151965
aug151965

THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE FOR SALE

I would like all of us to think about this. There has been a lot of talk about the need for more gun laws. There are already over 20,000 gun laws on the books now. Including Background checks, Mental health, FBI checks. Nothing would of prevented this mad man from committing this act.

I believe that our mental health community must do a better job in reaching out to those who are in need of help.

That job starts at home where a parent will first see signs of something concerning their child and getting help at that time.

The Xbox or other video games contribute to this problem.

Video games like Call of Duty America's Army or other video games all portray violent behavior. Theses are the games our kids play and I believe they desensitize our kids about war, violence and life it self

Now mix into the equation someone who is mentally challenged. Well you get my gist.

Lets not fool our self. This is not about more gun control, that wont change a thing. It is the way we parent, how we teach our children and the ability to restrict our children to what they view. The violent video games all have age related rating limits on the games. Most parents ignore the age ratings.

Children fantasize about the people they are shooting in theses video games and some children who are mentally challenged may have a hard time separating fantasies from reality and then they may play this fantasy out in real life.

BTW. The America's Army video game is made to indoctrinate our children and it is brought to them by our government and the US Army. Who is kidding who?

Education and timely help is the key for a real solution to real problems.

Not trying to make a political statement. Just being real.

If you think a gun ban will stop crime or stop anything for that matter. I have a bridge to sell you!

delsmallies
delsmallies

Wow, that rifle looks like the hundreds of full auto AK-47s that the BATFE and AG Eric Holder gave to Mexican drug cartels in the Fast and Furious/Gun Walking operation that the President helped cover up with executive privilege...No outrage over a BATFE agent and innocent Mexican citizens being killed by guns OUR GOVERNMENT gave to CRIMINALS???

Why not ask "Hizzoner" Mayor Blowhard how many concealed carry pistol permits he has given out to his rich friends and NY sports figures???  Ask Sen. Chucky  or  Diane Fienstein about their concealed carry pistols and armed bodyguards??? Oh I know, they are allowed to protect themselves but the average American family is not....REAL AMERICA IS GROWING TIRED OF THE HYPOCRISY OF ALL POLITICIANS AND THE MEDIA!!!

That rifle pictured there is not even a AR-15, only similarity is that they are both black. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle, much like those legally owned by hunters and target shooters all over the country. Semi-auto rifles fire one shot per every pull of the trigger, semi-auto guns can be pistols, shotguns or rifles. The AK-47, LIKE THE ONE PICTURED ABOVE is full automatic, pull the trigger once it fires multiples shots like a machine gun. The AR-15 is not an assault rifle, the AK-47 is a real assault rifle.

Don't allow the media and the politicians push you into an emotional frenzy, research and learn before you allow them to effect every AMERICAN'S rights.

 

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