Sam Stein
The Huffington Post
April 15, 2008

There was a certain amount of political serendipity surrounding Michael Bloomberg on Monday. As the New York City mayor and 250 of his mayoral colleagues launched a new phase in their campaign to draw attention to illegal gun violence, the topic of firearms and why people own and vote on them was dominating the presidential campaign.

At issue was the now famous quote Sen. Barack Obama uttered more than a week ago, in which he said voters "cling" to guns, religion, and anti-immigration sentiment when compelled by challenging economic factors. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Bloomberg said he disagreed with the assertion, arguing that neither psychology nor economics were at play.

"I think it is really stretching it to think there is an economic component to how people vote on this," Bloomberg said of the remark, first reported by Huffington Post’s OffTheBus. "This is an issue that they have voted the same way for a long time, through good times and bad times. It is not like people have to defend themselves against a higher rate of crime when the economy is lower. You can read too much into this."

For Bloomberg, the issue of guns and gun control is far more politically simplistic: People are guaranteed the right to bear arms under the second amendment, but the government has the responsibility to ensure that those individuals with criminal records are screened before purchasing the deadly weapons.

Which brings him back to the point of his campaign. Under the current system, prospective gun owners, regardless of their backgrounds, are free to buy firearms at gun shows. It is a loophole that each of the presidential candidates has argued should be closed — but one that Congress has yet to address.

"We are trying to get Congress to change the laws and there is an argument, ‘well, wait until we see who the next president is,’" said Bloomberg, who up until a recently had flirted with a White House run of his own. "What we try to point out is that all of the three possible presidents support ending the gun show exemption so there is no reason to wait… in the meantime while you are waiting for November or January 26, whenever the new president takes over, there will be a lot more guns sold to criminals."

To that end, on Monday, the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition launched a new nationwide television advertisement to draw attention to the issue of closing the gun show loophole. The spot featured supporters of all three presidential candidates as well as the mayor himself (labeled: an "undecided voter").

But, for Bloomberg, that wasn’t even the biggest campaign breakthrough of the day.

Indeed, earlier on Monday, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer and vender of firearms, announced that it would toughen internal standards regarding background checks and sales to gun owners. "I think that might actually be the catalyst that gets members of Congress to say, wait a second, the train is leaving and I’m on the wrong side on this one," said Bloomberg.

All of which begs the question: if there is support for closing the gun show loophole among all three presidential candidates, if the nation’s largest gun vender is getting tighter with its sales, and if – as Bloomberg says – the public favors such a policy by a four-to-one ratio, why has it taken Congress so long to act?

‘Because the NRA, which is a single-issue advocacy group, threatens them, and it requires one person to stand up," explained the mayor, adding later: "The second amendment gives people the right to bear arms. I don’t have a problem with that. I only have a problem with selling guns to people with criminal records because it is against the federal law, and I think it is an intelligent law."

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