WASHINGTON -- Nearly two weeks after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation's outspoken gun control advocates, is unimpressed with the political fallout.
The mayor has been on a media blitz following the massacre, in which suspected shooter James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people and injured dozens of others in a crowded movie theater. And at each of Bloomberg's stops, the message has been the same: It is time for detailed plans and a concerted effort to address gun violence.
But save for support from the usual suspects, Bloomberg has been met with silence. At a time when President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney can manufacture fights and outrage over the most trivial of matters, they've come to an informal détente on guns. New laws, each has argued, aren't needed.
Not one accustomed to being dismissed or ignored, Bloomberg lashed back in a phone interview with The Huffington Post on Wednesday.
"I don't think there's anybody, any rational person, that seriously could argue that what we have and the way we enforce it prohibits carnage," he said. "There's 34 people killed every single day [nationwide]. We've killed more than 400,000 Americans since 1968, when RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated. That is more Americans than died during WWII. So the argument that we can do with existing laws and stop this is just preposterous. It isn't worth having a discussion about."
A co-chair of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg's proposal for additional gun control legislation is, in the context of what's been done in the past, fairly limited. He's called for a federal requirement that background checks be done at gun shows so that no one with a criminal record or history of mental health issues is able to purchase firearms. In addition, he's advocated for updated and more streamlined databases on gun ownership and purchases so that various law enforcement agencies can work together more seamlessly.
The Obama administration has made strides on the latter issue. But in the wake of Aurora, the president's first step was to concede that new laws and requirements -- even those that he supports -- would simply be too difficult to pass in the current political climate. Romney, for his part, has declared that he opposes new gun control legislation.
"It shows you the power of an irrational single advocacy group," Bloomberg said, giving a nod to the effectiveness of the gun lobby to bottle up legislation before it's even debated. "What makes them effective is they've created this aura that they are so powerful, if you don't go with them, they'll take you out and destroy your ability to feed your family."
And so, part of Bloomberg's task, as a vocal figure behind the gun control movement, is not just to advocate legislation but to change the culture around the Second Amendment. He categorically dismissed the idea of using his own political future to do that, with, perhaps, a run for the White House.
"Well, I’m not a loser and couldn’t win, and I’m committed to being mayor of New York City, so I’m not doing this to run for president," said Bloomberg.
"[New York Times columnist] Tom Friedman, who’s my golfing buddy -- who, sometimes I say, you're going to have to give me more strokes because of your crazy ideas -- his idea is you run to shape the dialogue," he said. "Just remember that I can, anytime I want, talk to you, write an op-ed piece, and do those kinds of things that are a lot cheaper than running for office."
Instead, Bloomberg argued, he could lend his political imprimatur to those lawmakers who bucked the NRA. His recent endorsement of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), he says, was done with that in mind: a political reward for Brown's opposition to a bill that would force states to respect each other's concealed weapons laws.
"Even though he is wrong on all the other gun issues, that was so important that for his support, he has earned my support this election," said Bloomberg. "That doesn't mean I'll support him ever again. But you know, you have to go and support those who would vote the way you like them to vote, otherwise they're never gonna do it."
But Brown is just one senator. And Bloomberg's cachet can only be extended to so many lawmakers willing to stick their necks out on gun laws. In the end, the mayor conceded, a much broader movement with more money behind it is needed to convince lawmakers, from the president on down, that they won't be hurt by operating outside the limits of "existing law."
"It is probably true that you could create a liberal equivalent of the NRA or Grover Norquist," he said, in reference to the anti-tax disciplinarian. "But nobody's done it yet, and when they've tried to do it, it hasn't really worked."
"Now, why does Fox News work and MSNBC doesn't? I don't know. I've asked people," Bloomberg continued. "I think somebody that really understands television like [Fox News'] Roger Ailes would say that one side is more committed than the other. I don’t know if that’s true. But I’ve always thought to myself, if you could hire Roger Ailes, pay him 100 billion dollars, and say, 'Hey, go create left wing television.' Could he do it? And I think yes, he would."
1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.