New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters he was more optimistic that gun legislation will move in this Congress after meeting with the president, vice president and various senators Wednesday.
Bloomberg said that none of the four senators he courted made a formal commitment to back gun control laws but said he was confident that they eventually would.
“I walked away confident that they understand the issues and they will be there,” Bloomberg said. He said he’ll leave Washington with “a smile on my face, that there’s a lot of support here.”
He met with Sens. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; before heading to the White House to meet with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and briefly with President Barack Obama.
He said that in his meeting with the senators, there was a feeling that the tone has changed in the country on the issue. He said he knows getting a gun bill passed is “not a slam dunk” but was convinced the nation was evolving to the point where sensible gun bills would become law.
“The difference is there are going to be an awful lot more people murdered between now and then,” he said.
Bloomberg said that while the issue of universal background checks was very important, he’s still pushing for an assault weapons ban. (McCain had earlier told CQ Roll Call that Bloomberg seemed to be focusing more on background checks.)
Bloomberg said they are weapons of war, are designed to kill large numbers of people, and don’t belong on the streets. But he acknowledged they kill far fewer people than handguns — about 400 a year, he said.
He also sounded skeptical of Sen. Tom Coburn’s demand that any background check requirement eliminate federal recordkeeping.
“I fail to see how that’s something that the police could actually implement,” Bloomberg said of the Oklahoma Republican’s position.
Ironically, Bloomberg View, a publication he owns, editorialized that advocates should cave on the issue if it means they can get near-universal background checks.
Bloomberg also cited Robin Kelly’s win in the Illinois special election primary to replace Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. as the start of what he expects will be a trend.
“The voters ... understood that they and their children and grandchildren
are at risk with guns on the streets,” he said, adding that he would continue to spend money in districts where he could make a difference.
Bloomberg said he’s never met or talked to Kelly. But, “she has been stand up about understanding the problem and ... committed to doing something about it when she comes to Washington, and her opponent was rated A+ by the NRA,” he said.
And he made a point that he doesn’t want to ban all guns. “Nobody wants to take away your gun,” he said. “I used to have a rifle when I was a kid,” he said.
Bloomberg also said that he believes that the country was evolving quickly on the issue, and lawmakers who backed gun control would have time to explain it before they next meet the voters.
Bloomberg also weighed in on the sequester debate, minimizing the impact on New York City — he said police would still show up for work on March 4 — but he also said he believes that it isn’t a smart way to go about the nation’s business. He said leaders should come together to figure out how to spend less money, particularly on the entitlements that he said threaten to bankrupt the country.
But he dismissed the blame game over the sequester, saying the House, Senate and the president all own it, and they all thought it “was a good idea. ... They all have to live with it.”
He said there seems to be a lot of “posturing” about how bad the cuts will be, but said the sequester’s meat ax approach isn’t good for the country.