Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mayors, NRA Go Head-to-Head over Gun Sale Background Checks

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mayors, NRA Go Head-to-Head over Gun Sale Background Checks

Article excerpt

Taking a leaf from the aggressive political playbook of the powerful National Rifle Association, the pro-gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns is targeting 15 potentially persuadable senators in 13 states with $12 million in new advertising pressure.

Announced over the weekend by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the effort aims to pressure lawmakers to approve expanded background checks for those purchasing guns.

Today, according to the group of more than 800 mayors around the country, some 40 percent of gun sales typically at gun shows or between private individuals do not include background checks intended to weed out convicted felons, the mentally ill, and other questionable purchasers. (That 40 percent figure is disputed by gun advocates and some researchers.)

The two ads, scheduled to run during the Easter/Passover break in which lawmakers are back in their home states, feature hunters and other gun owners in rural setting.

In one ad, a man says he'll defend the Second Amendment but adds "with rights come responsibilities." In the other, a hunter says "background checks have nothing to do with taking guns away from anyone."

"These ads bring the voices of Americans who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement issued by the group he co-founded in 2006. The New York Times reports that Bloomberg paid for the $12 million ad buy himself.

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That overwhelming public support Bloomberg refers to is based on polls taken earlier this month in 21 states and 41 congressional districts showing support for universal background checks approaching 90 percent. Another survey, taken last year by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, found that 82 percent of gun owners including 74 percent of NRA members support requiring criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.

"If 90 percent of the public want something, and their representatives vote against that, common sense says, they are going to have a price to pay for that, Bloomberg said on NBCs Meet the Press Sunday, referring to those recent polls and the mayors groups high-pressure lobbying effort.

The 15 senators targeted in the new mayors group ads include Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Dan Coats of Indiana, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dean Heller of Nevada, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The Democrats are Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

In the past, the NRA had supported expanded background checks.

But in a speech at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City last month, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said, Don't you be fooled. …

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