New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday demanded that the two candidates for president step up and explain how they intend to avoid future tragedies like the horrific shootings in Aurora, Colo.
“This really is an enormous problem for the country, and it’s up to these two presidential candidates,” he said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” “They want to lead this country and they’ve said things before that they’re in favor of banning things like assault weapons. Where are they now, and why don’t they stand up? If they want our votes, they better.”
Bloomberg noted that President Obama and Mitt Romney have previously backed measures to limit the sale of deadly weapons, accusing both of them of going soft on the cause in the face of political pressure.
“The governor has apparently changed his views and the president has spent the last three years trying to avoid the issue — or if he’s facing it I don’t know anybody that’s seen him face it.”
As Illinois state senator, Obama voted to ban semiautomatic assault weapons and to limit on handgun purchases to one a month. As a presidential candidate, he supported a renewal of the assault weapons ban, but ran away from the cause shortly after getting elected.
As Massachusetts governor, Romney in 2004 signed a state ban on assault weapons, saying, “These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”
Bloomberg declared, “I don’t know what they’re going to do, but I think it’s incumbent on them to tell us specifically — not just in broad terms. … It’s time, I think, that we hold them accountable and say, ‘OK, you want our votes? What are you going to do?’”
The New York City mayor accused the National Rifle Association of pushing the federal government not to rigorously enforce gun laws, and posited that much can be accomplished with a few tweaks. He called for closing a loophole that permits the sale of firearms without a background check at guns shows, and requiring states to more actively keep and share records of people with psychiatric problems.
“We don’t need more laws — we need a couple of fixes,” he said.
Don’t expect any action from Obama. Asked Friday whether the Aurora massacre warrants a review of gun safety laws, White House spokesman Jay Carney would only say the president supports “common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights of Americans, while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing law do not get them.”
The appetite for gun restrictions in Congress has plummeted since the 1990s. Democratic leaders have largely abandoned the issue and the NRA has scored victory after victory. An impassioned voice for gun control who has frequently butted heads with the NRA, Bloomberg continued his charge for the cause in demanding that Obama and Romney offer some solutions.
“We spend all our time talking about tax returns and gaffes and things like that,” Bloomberg told CBS. “This is one of those issues, along with a handful of others that really matter to the American public. It matters to the future of our country.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.