Mike and the Gun Nuts

Mike Bloomberg drives gun nuts crazy. Or crazier, as the case may be. Mention the Mayor’s name in the gun-owning heartland of America and you might wind up picking buckshot from your backside.

Mr. Bloomberg’s offense, of course, is that he’d like to cut down on the sale of illegal guns. This, you would think, is the kind of issue conservatives would love. It’s about law and order. It’s about going after bad guys. It’s about cracking down on lawbreakers.

But the same crowd that views undocumented workers as criminals or worse apparently has a soft spot for the upstanding folks who traffic in illegal armaments. Mr. Bloomberg’s personal crusade to rid the streets of illegal guns has inspired spittle-spewing rants from gun owners across the country. Apparently, they don’t see the harm in buying illegal guns, as long as the buyers are fully documented American citizens.

Under Mr. Bloomberg’s leadership, mayors across the country have come together to press Washington for a more rational gun policy. They would like Congress to allow the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to release information about the origins of guns bought illegally and used in crimes. Many guns are sold in violation of an array of laws designed to make sure that purchasers are buying the weapons for themselves, and not for somebody who might fail a background check.

What’s incredible about this request is the very fact that it has to be made. Since 2003, Congress has banned the A.T.F. from releasing such information
about illegal gun sales. Some believe that cities like New York want the information only because it wishes to sue gun manufacturers for crimes committed with their products. Mr. Bloomberg argues that he simply wants to get illegal guns off the streets.

The Mayor, it must be said, is no anti-gun zealot. He supports the right to gun ownership. He just wants to stop the evasion of gun laws.

The hysterical reaction from the gun lobby and from gun owners suggests that the Mayor is onto something. After all, gun lovers who buy weapons on the up and up presumably have nothing to fear from Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign.

His critics pay him homage with the violence of their opposition and the insanity of their tactics. One collection of fools in Virginia actually sponsored a gun-giveaway raffle to tweak Mr. Bloomberg. The Virginians were annoyed that the NYPD has operated stings designed to document illegal arms sales in Virginia and elsewhere.

The Virginia crowd claims that Mr. Bloomberg has overstepped his authority. One suspects that the Virginians might feel differently if the Mayor dispatched officers to Richmond to check on the papers of busboys, day laborers, nannies and landscapers. Mr. Bloomberg might merit a statue alongside Robert E. Lee.

It is not hard to imagine that there’s something more than mere gun-loving behind some of the criticisms leveled at Mr. Bloomberg. Those stout defenders of personal armament, the National Rifle Association, have made him a regular target for abuse, taking careful note of his wealth, his city of birth (Boston) and his ambitions (unspecified).

If Mr. Bloomberg measures his effectiveness by the enemies he has made, he must be a happy man.