Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns on Thursday will announce that it is joining with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a year-old grassroots campaign launched the day after the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The combined group will align Bloomberg’s deep pockets with the strong social network and media savvy the mothers’ group brings. The billionaire founder of Bloomberg News said last week that he’ll “devote extensive resources of my own” to the effort.
In a statement Wednesday, Bloomberg said, “Gun violence is, unfortunately, an issue that affects every community, and coming together with Moms Demand Action today will strengthen our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and save lives.”
Founded by Shannon Watts, an Indianapolis mother of five, Moms Demand Action says it has more than 130,000 members in all 50 states. It took on coffee chain Starbucks in July, pushing it to ban guns from its cafes. After a woman in Wake Forest, N.C., accidentally shot herself in the hand at a Staples store last August, the group urged company CEO Ron Sargent to adopt a company-wide ban on firearms in its stores. It also has aggressively lobbied congressional lawmakers on gun policy.
“I really feel like moms have been the missing voice in this national debate,” Watts says, adding that the Sandy Hook shootings were “the tipping point for mothers to say, ‘Enough.’ ”
John Feinblatt, chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, calls the move “a turning point for the movement” to control firearms, with Watts’ group filling “the intensity gap” when it comes to grassroots activism.
Created in 2006, Bloomberg’s group claims 1.5 million supporters and about 1,000 mayors now backing its agenda. It pushes for better access to crime data tied to guns and works with lawmakers to fix what it calls weak gun laws that make it easy for “criminals and other dangerous people” to get guns.
The group lobbied last spring for the U.S. Senate to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment. Proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), it would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales. The measure fell six votes short of getting enough support for a straight up-or-down vote last April.
Feinblatt says legislators will take the mothers’ group seriously because they represent constituents, not other lawmakers. “Combining moms and mayors is a pretty powerful force.”
He also says Watts’ group has matured quickly. “They’re only a year old, but they look and act like an organization that’s been around for five to 10 years.”
Los Angeles civil rights attorney Chuck Michel, whose clients include the National Rifle Association, says the merger is reminiscent of a similar one between the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Million Mom March in 2002. But in this case, he says, Bloomberg brings considerable private funding to the effort.
“This seems analogous to a corporate takeover, where a large company sees the advantage of acquiring the social media and brand of a target company, but their agendas are the same. In this case, their anti-Second Amendment agendas won’t change,” he says.