Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood at a waste-transfer station on Staten Island, surrounded by garbage, to unveil the first step in his new-and-improved plan to cart trash out of the city.
It had been more than 24 hours since a South Korean student went on a shooting spree at Virginia Tech, killing 32 students and then himself. It was the worst such incident in American history.
The Mayor, one of the nation’s most outspoken—and richest—gun-control advocates, still hadn’t commented.
As soon as he was done talking about garbage, the press moved in.
Asked by a reporter if it was “ironic” that the governor of Virginia had signed into a law a bill banning sting operations in gun shops—something that Mr. Bloomberg’s administration had conducted to highlight the ease with which guns from one state end up in New York City—the Mayor’s response was stubbornly measured.
“We have tragedies all the time,” he said. “Our children and our police officers are getting shot by criminals. And when we look at the guns, we find, with those people, they are almost invariably guns that were purchased in violation of the law, through straw purchases, or sold in bulk to somebody that has a criminal record. And that’s what we’re going to focus on, and I’ll leave the irony up to others. Any other questions?”
There was another one, again about the shooting.
Mr. Bloomberg provided a similar answer.
“You know, a whole bunch of people—there were professors, there were students—people who went to class that day thinking they had a great future, and now their families are grieving,” he said evenly.
Before the incident in Blacksburg, Va., Mr. Bloomberg had reveled in his role as the gun lobby’s foremost opponent. Along with the coalition of mayors that he helped to assemble, he unveiled a Web site called ProtectPolice.org, whose tagline asked: “Why is Congress protecting criminals instead of cops?”
Mr. Bloomberg was lampooned on the cover of the National Rifle Association’s magazine, under the headline “Tentacles.”
“I think it’s fair to say we have gotten their attention,” Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler gleefully told The New York Times.
But this time, with a chance to make waves on a national level—a prize opportunity for a prospective Presidential candidate, as the Mayor is persistently rumored to be—Mr. Bloomberg passed.
“Like I said, we’re going to have an event tomorrow and focus on the same thing—trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” he said, in response to a final question about what he planned to do about guns after the shooting. “That’s the objective—and if we could do that, we could make real progress. We would have advanced the cause of keeping Americans safe. And that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
The questions were over. The Mayor walked outside, down a flight of stairs and across a parking lot to a segment of railroad track, where he presided over a ceremony for the reactivation of a garbage train.