Will Bloomberg Succeed on Gun Safety Where Others Have Failed?

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this week that he would spend $50 million on building a new, nationwide grassroots gun safety movement to counter the NRA. “We’ve got to make them afraid of us,” Bloomberg said. The new initiative would create an umbrella group, Everytown for Gun Safety, which would consolidate gun control groups he funds.

Last summer, in the second Brookings Essay, Third Way’s Matt Bennett focused on how the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, spurred devastated families to address and change gun laws. In “The Promise: The Families of Sandy Hook and the Long Road to Gun Safety,” Bennett reviewed the history of attempts since the Kennedy and King assassinations in 1968 to legislate on gun issues. He detailed bi-partisan efforts in the U.S. Senate to expand background checks in commercial settings, i.e., closing the gun show and Internet loopholes for firearms purchases, which failed to secure enough votes (60) to proceed to a majority up-or-down vote.

“Public reaction has been swift and surprising,” Bennett wrote of that outcome.

For the first time in the modern history of the debate, a gun safety vote has had a negative impact on the approval rating of Senators voting “no” (even in red and purple states like Alaska, Arizona and New Hampshire) and a positive impact on red-state senators voting “yes” (Louisiana and North Carolina).

In that political shift, there is hope. Most of those who voted “no” surely know that they did the wrong thing by opposing the expansion of background checks in commercial settings. If they believe they erred not just morally and substantively but politically, they will change. Many are pushing them to do so, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which brings deep policy expertise and massive financial resources to the fight. Others, including Vice President Biden, Senators Manchin and Schumer, former Representative Gabby Giffords and her group Americans for Responsible Solutions, Third Way, the Center for American Progress, and the Brady Campaign are also pressing the case.

Still in the arena as well are the families of Sandy Hook. Despite the glare of a spotlight that has forced them to repeatedly relive their darkest hour and subjected them to a stunning level of personal vitriol, they continue to come to Washington, meet with senators and talk to the press. They accepted early on that this was a long road—that a 20-year gridlock on gun policy was not likely to change in an instant.

Will this new effort succeed where others have failed? For context, read the complete Brookings Essay here.