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Gun control 'dream team' is born: Can it rival NRA for political firepower?

Michael Bloomberg and Gabrielle Giffords may help to put a new face on the gun-control movement – and try to give the NRA a run for its money when it comes to influencing gun policy. But the movement has a fractious history to overcome.

By Staff writer / January 10, 2013

Vice President Joe Biden, second from right, gestures as he speaks during a meeting with Sportsmen and Women and Wildlife Interest Groups and members of his cabinet, Thursday, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. Mr. Biden is holding a series of meetings this week as part of the effort he is leading to develop policy proposals in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

Susan Walsh/AP

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A month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, a once-moribund gun-control movement this week unleashed a broad, coordinated campaign aimed at curbing America's fascination with high-powered firearms by, in part, blunting the tip of the gun lobby's spear: the National Rifle Association (NRA).

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Heeding President Obama's call for swift action after 20-year-old Adam Lanza used an assault-style rifle to kill 20 grade-school children and six staffers in Connecticut, a sort of dream team of gun-control advocates has in effect launched a multipronged attack that could change national sentiment about gun control, in part by catching the NRA at a time when its political influence is low, say political scientists and gun-policy experts.

In Washington, Vice President Joe Biden is meeting this week with various constituencies, including the NRA and Hollywood producers, as part of a presidential task force, even as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns went public with a new national ad featuring the mother of a child slain during the 2010 attempted assassination of former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona.

On Tuesday, Ms. Giffords, a Second Amendment supporter, launched her own political-action committee aimed at raising money to combat the NRA's political influence. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), meanwhile, worked to push through new gun restrictions after noting that "guns have both a noble and tragic tradition in America and in New York State."

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama himself hinted that he may take some kind of "executive action" against gun violence, though experts note that any major initiatives must come through Congress.

"I think there's a large wave [of gun-control advocacy] building, and I think the White House is trying to have it all sort of come in the same direction," says Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at the State University of New York in Cortland and the author of "The Politics of Gun Control." "You have the Bloomberg people, the [James] Brady people, now Giffords, and there's a sense among the political leadership in Washington that they have a moment to really get stuff done and to bring all these groups to bear in a consistent way. This is not a normal moment; it's not normal politics."

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