Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

California's Newsom Follows Bloomberg's Lead with Gun Control Proposal

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

California's Newsom Follows Bloomberg's Lead with Gun Control Proposal

Article excerpt

SACRAMENTO,Calif. - As he pushes a proposed ballot initiative cobbled together from gun-control bills that died in the Legislature or on the governor's desk, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom frames the battle he hopes to wage next year as a personal one.

"Since Sandy Hook, I have sat back as a father and been mesmerized by the inability of the federal government to do anything substantively on gun safety," he said in a recent interview, referring to the 2012 shooting deaths of 26 children and staff at a Connecticut school.

But the expanded background checks and stolen-gun reporting requirements that Newsom seeks to put on the state ballot next fall also fit neatly into an unfolding national effort championed by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Bloomberg announced last year that he was launching Everytown for Gun Safety, a tax-exempt social welfare organization into which he merged gun-control groups he had formed or funded. He started the new group with $50 million of his own money.

Bloomberg's stated strategy: Confront the gun lobby at the local level, by backing legislative candidates who favor gun control and supporting gun-control initiatives on state ballots, rather than rely on Congress, where the National Rifle Association is perceived to have its greatest political influence, to foster change.

Campaign finance records show Everytown last year provided more than $4 million to a successful $11 million campaign in Washington state that widened background checks on gun buyers. By contrast, the NRA and its supporters spent less than $600,000.

Additional support for the Washington initiative came from other foundations and a short list of billionaire donors, including more than $1 million from Napster co-founder Sean Parker.

Similar measures proposed this year in Nevada and Maine suggest more of the same.

Campaign finance reports filed in those states show Everytown is providing staff and most of the money for the moves there. The political committee filing the Nevada ballot proposal registered with the secretary of state as an affiliate of Everytown, for example.

The National Rifle Association characterizes the state initiatives as an assault by Bloomberg on the Second Amendment.

"We want voters to know this is the work of one billionaire, said Amy Hunter, spokeswoman for the NRA's political lobbying arm in Virginia, the Institute for Legislative Action. "We know they are working on the ground to get on the ballot in other states too.

Everytown representatives declined to discuss whether the organization intends to become involved in the proposed California initiative. Neither would Newsom or his political advisers talk about how deeply he plans to tap the Bloomberg vein if his measure is cleared to circulate petitions to place it on California's November 2016 ballot. …

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