For Now, Bloomberg Measures Response on Newtown

Mayor Bloomberg. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The only TV ad in which Mike Bloomberg appeared this election cycle was an endorsement of Chris Murphy, running for Connecticut’s open U.S. Senate seat, and it was all about guns. The mayor talked about how Linda McMahon, the Republican in the race, was a favorite of the NRA, and how Murphy had the guts to fight against the spread of weapons no civilian needs. The ad never ran — it was filmed three days before Hurricane Sandy hit, so airing it as New York and Connecticut bailed water would have been counterproductive.

But Murphy, who went on to win, was nevertheless grateful for Bloomberg’s support. And when he gets to Washington in January, with today’s tragedy in Newtown still painfully fresh, Murphy is likely to find more politicians receptive to Bloomberg’s message and cause.

The mayor has long fought against senseless gun violence, including creating and funding a national mayors’ group on the issue. But this fall, spurred in part by the Colorado movie-theater massacre, Bloomberg launched his own super-PAC. Its biggest win was defeating an NRA-friendly California congressman. The larger idea was to make it safe for other politicians to stand up to the gun lobby, knowing that Bloomberg would have their backs the next time they ran. 

Today’s horror at Sandy Hook Elementary could provide an awful assist in changing public opinion and political will on gun laws, but Bloomberg is being careful in how he responds. After the Aurora, Colorado, killings, the mayor wrote a series of op-eds and gave a number of angry interviews, and he was criticized by some for grandstanding. He wasn’t, but today Bloomberg has had a considerably lower profile. He issued a toughly worded statement through Mayors Against Illegal Guns: “The country needs [President Obama] to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough.” 

Tonight, the director of MAIG, city criminal justice coordinator John Feinblatt, and deputy mayor Howard Wolfson, who ran Bloomberg’s super-PAC, will appear on NY1 to talk about the shootings and the mayor’s gun efforts.  But Bloomberg himself isn’t making any public appearances until Meet the Press on Sunday. No doubt he’ll be asked about Newtown, and he’ll answer bluntly, but the mayor has decided that all of the official condolences don’t change gun policy. And Washington has often seen Bloomberg as a rich scold. So from now on, when it comes to guns, his super-PAC will do most of the talking. If there’s anything good to come out of the deaths of twenty children, it’s that more legislators will be listening.