The National Rifle Association can’t stand Mayor Michael Bloomberg. One of its minions called the Mayor a “national gun-control vigilante.” This was meant as an insult. Another N.R.A. type said that Mr. Bloomberg is a “poster boy for gun bans in America.” Again, this was not to be considered a term of endearment.
In light of the horrendous, gun-enabled massacre at Virginia Tech this week, the N.R.A. might want to reconsider its opinion of the Mayor. Maybe being a “gun-control vigilante” isn’t such a bad thing after all. Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg’s advocacy of stricter gun laws is turning out to be one of his greatest legacies.
The N.R.A. and its rabid members are upset about the Mayor’s highly successful campaign against illegal guns—not only in New York City, but around the country. Mr. Bloomberg founded a coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which has mobilized urban chief executives in the Northeast as well as heartland states like Ohio and Kentucky.
New Yorkers already have felt the benefits of the Mayor’s crusade. He mobilized New York State to pass legislation imposing a three-and-a-half-year minimum sentence for possession of a loaded illegal handgun—making New York the toughest state in the nation when it involves sentencing gun offenders. He has sued 27 gun dealers who had a disproportionate share of guns used in New York City crimes traced to them. (According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about 1 percent of gun dealers supply almost 60 percent of guns used in crimes.) And he has focused on gun suppression: There was a 13 percent increase in gun arrests in the city from 2005 to 2006.
The Bloomberg coalition, which consists of nearly 200 mayors from cities of all sizes, has brought attention to the dangers that law-enforcement officials face because of illegal guns. A police chief from a small town in Minnesota—Minnesota!—summed up the problem: “I am tired of my people having to face illegal guns,” said Scott M. Knight of Chaska, Minn. Equally exhausting are the obstacles placed in the way of common-sense gun legislation, the police chief added.
Thanks to Mr. Bloomberg’s coalition, the gun-control issue is not just for big-city mayors in liberal Northeastern states. That’s why the N.R.A. is up in arms, so to speak. When police chiefs in Minnesota are expressing their anger over illegal guns, it’s hard to slander gun-control advocates as out-of-touch pinko liberals.
Mr. Bloomberg and his allies have framed the gun-control issue as an anti-crime initiative, which makes their strategy all the more marketable. Their emphasis is on illegal guns, obtained through the offices of rogue gun dealers. The coalition is pressing Congress to do away with a federal law that prohibits the A.T.F. from releasing data that might allow gun victims to sue dealers and manufacturers. The information would also give local law enforcement a new tool in combating the sale of illegal guns.
All of this is anathema to the strict constructionists of the Second Amendment, who see any attempt to control guns as an infringement of their Constitutional right to bear arms. Would that the gun owners would stop for a moment to contemplate not only the massacre at Virginia Tech, but the small-scale slaughter that takes place every day not only in our cities, but in even the smallest towns, in even the reddest of states.