Bringing A Checkbook To A Gun Fight

Michael Bloomberg plans (NYT) “to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually outmuscle the National Rifle Association.” Cillizza expects Bloomberg to become an NRA boogyman (as if he weren’t already):

The more groups opposed to gun control are able to cast the effort to pass measures that would tighten said laws as the efforts of a New York City billionaire bent on telling you how to live your life, the less effective the effort will be. Look at how badly Virginias reacted when Bloomberg ran stings in the Commonwealth in 2007 and when he made comments in 2012 about how so many guns used in New York City came from Virginia.  People don’t like others telling them how to handle their business — especially if that person is a billionaire New York City resident who wants to regulate things like sugar in soda.

Bouie weighs in on Bloomberg’s crusade:

Of course, money is money, and a $50 million investment to combat the NRA could prove effective, even with Bloomberg’s image. But there are problems there, as well.

The NRA’s power is as much a function of passion as it is resources. As the Times reports, the organization spends just $20 million annually on political activities. Its influence comes from its members, who are hypervigilant against any effort to curb gun rights. The enthusiasm gap between gun activists and gun-control advocates is huge. According to the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of those who favor gun rights have either contributed money to a pro-gun organization, contacted a public official to express an opinion on gun policy, expressed opinions on guns on social media, or signed a petition on gun policy. By contrast, only 25 percent of those who prioritize gun control have done the same.

Put another way, gun rights are crucial for those who support them in a way that isn’t true of people who oppose them. Bloomberg’s task is to heighten the political salience of gun control and turn that into action.

McGillis joins the conversation:

The overriding political aim of the Bloomberg’s new effort is to reshape the perceptions around the gun issue, to make more elected officials who might be inclined to support tougher gun laws rethink their assumption that the politically safe and expedient vote is to vote with the NRA. And the first real test for doing so, post-Manchin-Toomey, is the 2014 election. It’s an imperfect test, because it just so happens that none of the Republicans from purplish states who voted against Manchin-Toomey [the background-check bill] (Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Jeff Flake in Arizona, Rob Portman in Ohio, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, among others) are up this fall. That has left Bloomberg’s team in the awkward position of threatening only the Senate Democrats who voted against Manchin-Toomey and are up this fall, Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Begich in Alaska. Immediately after Manchin-Toomey, the group ran a tough ad in Arkansas attacking Pryor for his vote, which drew a counter from Pryor and criticism from Washington Democrats who noted that Bloomberg was only helping raise the likelihood that Republicans would gain control of the Senate. …

The clearer and more crucial test for the new group will be making sure they provide adequate support to the Democratic senators who did vote for Manchin-Toomey despite being up for a tough reelection in strong gun-rights states—notably, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

John Aravosis passes along the video above from Bloomberg’s new group:

I’ve always said that I have two models, mentor-movements really, for my advocacy work: The NRA, and AIPAC. When I worked on the Hill, both groups knew how to sow fear in the halls of Congress.  It’s what other should aspire to.  It’s what gay rights advocacy, the ones on the ground, aspire to. And it’s what the anti-gun-violence movement should do as well.

This video is a good first step.