Bloomberg Copies the NRA, Gives Lawmakers His Own Grades on Gun Control

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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

It's no secret that Mayor Bloomberg hopes to create a pro-gun control organization to rival the NRA, as he declared even before the Newton shooting that he intends to challenge the "perception among the political world that the NRA has more power than the American people." In February, Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC helped sway an Illinois House primary against the NRA-backed candidate, proving that he too is capable of using his considerable wealth to elect candidates who share his views on guns. Now Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the nonprofit led by Bloomberg, is blatantly copying one of the gun group's most well-known practices by issuing its own letter grades to members of Congress. “For decades, the NRA has done an admirable job of tracking to minute detail how members of Congress stand on gun bills," Mark Glaze, the group's director, tells the Washington Post. "We’ve simply decided to do the same."

Mayors Against Illegal Guns will unveil the specifics of its plan on Tuesday, but it involves grading lawmakers on a scale of A to F based on their votes and statements on gun control. Glaze say they were inspired by major political donors asking for help selecting pro-gun control candidates to support, but the NRA dismissed the idea that Bloomberg's grades could become as influential as their own. “The reason NRA scorecards are effective is that they have the weight of approximately 5 million dues-paying members and tens of millions of other supporters behind them,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the gun group, adding, “We’ll take that over the purse of one billionaire any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

The announcement from Mayors Against Illegal Guns comes as the Obama administration is making its final push to gather support for the Senate's gun control bill. While President Obama was calling for sweeping gun control reform several months ago, now the best hope for a new federal gun law appears to be a bipartisan deal to expand background checks to all commercial sales — and even that will require a fight. Both Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Organizing for Action, the group formed out of Obama's campaign apparatus, are releasing ads this week that target specific senators on gun control.

As Obama tried to publicly shame Republicans who say they'll filibuster during an event in Connecticut, on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he'll join the group of senators promising to block a vote on the bill. Speaking before a crowd of several thousand people, including Newtown families, President Obama urged people to find out where their representatives stand on guns.  “If they’re not part of the 90 percent of Americans who agree on background checks, then ask them, ‘Why not?’ Why wouldn’t you want to make it easier for law enforcement to do their job?" said Obama. He also took a rare direct jab at the NRA, saying, "What’s more important to you: Our children or an ‘A’ grade from the gun lobby?”