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Super Bowl ad makes New York Mayor Bloomberg gun control king

The gun control movement has faltered in recent years. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to spend his own fortune to buck that trend, most notably with a Super Bowl ad.

By Staff writer / February 4, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed an undercover video at City Hall in New York, Jan. 31, 2011. Mr. Bloomberg said undercover investigators working for New York City were not required to pass a background check at a Phoenix gun show when they bought a pistol with an extended magazine. He said the sale just days after the mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., exposes a "dangerous gap" in federal gun laws.

Edward Reed/NYC Mayor's Office/AP

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With little political capital to lose and millions of his own cash to spend, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is determined to check the role of guns in American society.

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A 30-second Super Bowl ad featuring Mr. Bloomberg on a couch with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino will go a long way toward cementing Bloomberg as the king of gun control as the billionaire turns from attacking transfats and smoking to cracking down on illicit sales of firearms, too many of which he says end up in the hands of violent criminals.

Mike Bloomberg is the only major political figure for whom gun control is a front-burner cause right now,” says University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds.

Since 9/11 and the 2004 sun-setting of the assault weapons ban, courts, legislatures and public opinion have bit-by-bit turned toward the expansion of the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms. That trend has been exacerbated by the Obama presidency, a sense of economic insecurity, and lingering worries about the decline of Western civilization and American ideals like individual liberty, says Brian Anse Patrick, a communications professor at the University of Toledo.

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The boom in the number of Americans who have concealed carry permits, for example, hasn't come in the nation's rural, gun friendly reaches, but in cities, exurbs, and suburbs, where women often make up a significant portion of permit-seekers, Mr. Patrick says.

It's in part that spread of gun culture into major cities that inspired Bloomberg to join with Mayor Menino to launch Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), which has hired private investigators to reveal how easily weapons move through gun shows in places like Arizona and Tennessee and end up as illegal guns in cities like New York and Boston.

Given the fact that three-termer Bloomberg can't by law run for mayor again, and that he has a $19 billion personal fortune, his emergence as a major gun control advocate has a lot to do with his independence. Democrats, including President Obama, have largely laid off proposing new gun restrictions in order to stave off attacks on conservative Blue Dog Democrats supported by gun lobbies like the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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