March 25 (Bloomberg) -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $12 million television ad campaign urging U.S. senators to support legislation that would expand background checks for gun purchases.
The ads running in 13 states are intended to encourage people “to call their senators if they believe that we should have gun checks that stop criminals and people with mental illnesses from getting guns,” Bloomberg said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
The Senate is preparing an April vote on legislation including federal aid for school safety, tougher penalties for gun trafficking and broader background checks for purchases, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said on March 21. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
President Barack Obama and some congressional lawmakers are seeking tighter gun regulations after the Dec. 14 shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 children and six school employees.
A proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases to include sales at gun shows is opposed by the National Rifle Association and a number of Republicans in Congress. Polls show a majority of Americans endorse mandatory background checks.
Senators will consider a ban on assault-weapon sales as an amendment because supporters lack the necessary votes to include it in the underlying legislation, Reid said last week.
“I don’t think we should give up on the assault weapons ban,” Bloomberg, who leads the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group, said in the NBC interview. “But clearly, it is a more difficult issue for a lot of people.”
Mayors Against Illegal Guns said in a March 23 news release that the ads will run in 13 states during the congressional recess urging senators to support expanded background checks. The ads are intended to influence 15 senators including Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, who both face re-election in 2014.
The coalition is also planning 100 events across the U.S. on March 28 as part of its “National Day to Demand Action” on gun regulations. The events and petition drives are intended to generate calls to Senate offices to support legislation, the group said in a news release.
Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, said Bloomberg’s ad campaign will fail to persuade the public to support gun restrictions.
“They sure don’t want him telling what self-defense firearms to own,” LaPierre said in an interview on “Meet the Press” yesterday. “And he can’t buy America.”
The background check system under debate won’t wind up capturing all purchases, he said.
“The whole thing, universal checks, is a dishonest premise,” LaPierre said. “Criminals aren’t going to be checked. They’re not going to do this.”
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