Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to take on the National Rifle Association with moms, police officers, and mayors at his side.
A longtime proponent of gun control, Mr. Bloomberg announced Wednesday that he will donate $50 million to Everytown for Gun Safety, a newly formed advocacy organization that aims to build grass roots support on gun violence prevention, including universal backgrounds checks, gun trafficking, and responsible gun ownership.
“This is the beginning of a major new campaign to reduce the gun violence that plagues communities across the country,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “There is no question that more needs to be done to tackle this deadly problem.”
Bloomberg’s group will focus on strengthening requirements for background checks prior to purchasing a weapon. Currently, mandatory background checks for gun sales do not apply to gun shows or estate sales.
In 2013, Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York authored a bill that would make background checks universally mandatory, but failed to garner sufficient support for the bill to progress through Congress.
But while the federal government has stalled, at least 16 states have strengthened requirements for background checks prior to gun sales, Bloomberg told Savannah Guthrie of the "Today" show Wednesday morning.
He hopes that his group will be able to tap into the localized pockets of advocacy and weave them together in a broader message.
“You’ve got to work at it piece by piece,” Bloomberg told The New York Times in an interview published Tuesday. “One mom and another mom. You’ve got to wear them down until they finally say, ‘Enough.’ ”
Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety aims to be an umbrella organization for two existing smaller organizations: Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which Bloomberg founded along with then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D), and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, founded by stay-at-home mom Shannon Watts.
Ms. Watts told The New York Times that Everytown will focus heavily on rallying women for their cause.
“Right now, women, when they go to the polls, they vote on abortion, they vote on jobs, they vote on health care,” she said. “We want one of those things to be gun violence prevention.”
Bloomberg and Watts are deliberate in choosing the phrase “gun violence prevention” rather than “gun control.”
“It isn’t gun control,” Bloomberg explained during his "Today" show appearance. “This is simply making sure that people that everybody agrees should not be allowed to buy a gun – criminals, minors, people with psychiatric problems – [and] make sure that they can’t buy guns.”
Everytown currently has 1.5 million members across the country and aims to enlist an additional 1 million supporters by the end of the year.
Bloomberg’s infusion of cash will be used to counter the multimillion-dollar lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association, but he insists that it's not "a battle of dollars."
“This is a battle for the hearts and minds of Americans," he said on "Today."
Material from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this report.