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Mayors, NRA go head-to-head over gun sale background checks

The 800-member group 'Mayors Against Illegal Guns' is running new ads pressuring 15 senators to support gun sale background checks. The National Rifle Association is fighting back.

By Staff writer / March 24, 2013

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a gun violence summit in Baltimore in January. On Saturday, Mr. Bloomberg announced a new $12 million television ad campaign from Mayors Against Illegal Guns to push senators in key states to back gun-control efforts including comprehensive background checks.

Patrick Semansky/AP

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Taking a leaf from the aggressive political playbook of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), the pro-gun control group “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” is targeting 15 potentially persuadable senators in 13 states with $12 million in new advertising pressure.

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Announced over the weekend by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the effort aims to pressure lawmakers to approve expanded background checks for those purchasing guns.

Today, according to the group of more than 800 mayors around the country, some 40 percent of gun sales – typically at gun shows or between private individuals – do not include background checks intended to weed out convicted felons, the mentally ill, and other questionable purchasers. (That 40 percent figure is disputed by gun advocates and some researchers.)

The two ads, scheduled to run during the Easter/Passover break in which lawmakers are back in their home states, feature hunters and other gun owners in rural settings.

In one ad, a man says he'll defend the Second Amendment but adds "with rights come responsibilities." In the other, a hunter says "background checks have nothing to do with taking guns away from anyone."

"These ads bring the voices of Americans – who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks – into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement issued by the group he cofounded in 2006. The New York Times reports that Bloomberg paid for the $12 million ad buy himself.

That “overwhelming” public support Bloomberg refers to is based on polls taken earlier this month in 21 states and 41 congressional districts showing support for universal background checks approaching 90 percent.  Another survey, taken last year by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, found that 82 percent of gun owners – including 74 percent of NRA members – support requiring criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.

"If 90 percent of the public want something, and their representatives vote against that, common sense says, they are going to have a price to pay for that,” Bloomberg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, referring to those recent polls and the mayors group’s high-pressure lobbying effort.

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