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Michael Bloomberg’s third act: fighting illegal guns

By Laurie Bennett

December 16, 2012 at 2:47pm

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, like many this weekend, has had it with America’s gun culture.

“We kill people in schools, we kill people in hospitals, we kill people in religious organizations. We kill them when they’re young, when they’re old. We’ve just got to stop this,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

As he did Friday, after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, Bloomberg called on President Obama to take action.

“It’s time for the president to stand up and lead and tell this country what we should do,” he said. “This should be his number 1 agenda. He’s the president of the United States and if he does nothing in his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed by illegal guns.”

We’re reminded of the example set by Bill Gates.

During his years at Microsoft, Gates was often criticized for not giving away enough of his fortune. He silenced his detractors post-retirement by launching the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg’

Bloomberg, on the other hand, has given away billions of dollars during his time as media mogul and mayor, much of it without fanfare.

But huge fortune and high intellect create possibilities that go well beyond generalized charity.

Gates set out to eradicate malaria, and he has made significant headway.

No one will ever eradicate guns from the American landscape. But Bloomberg, whose third term as mayor ends next year, has the resources to change both the conversation and the death tally.

As we noted Saturday, he already has a prominent role as a leader of a group of mayors fighting illegal gun use.

He also founded Independence USA, a super PAC supporting candidates who advocate gun control. Funded with $10 million of Bloomberg money, the group spent almost $9.4 million in the 2012 elections. The PAC helped candidates who had been targeted by the National Rifle Association. Four out of seven won, Bloomberg boasted Sunday.

Beyond campaign contributions and the bully pulpit he has a mayor of the country’s largest city, there are other avenues to address the problem of gun violence.

A foundation led by a billionaire politician with nationwide connections but no real party affiliation could become a forceful responder to the NRA.

Under the umbrella of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the mayor has given away $2.4 billion to the arts, education, environment, government innovation and public health. The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranks him fifth among the nation’s donors.

A gun initiative would need a more focused approach, as Gates has taken in combatting malaria.

As the New Yorker wrote in a 2005 article about Gates’s focus on addressing disease: “The Gates foundation has more than vast wealth; it has the power of a government without actually being bound by a nation’s political or economic restraints.”

Bloomberg, with an estimated wealth of $25 billion, is one of the few people in the country with comparable resources and a comparable focus on a health problem that has to overcome political barriers.

He declined to answer David Gregory’s question Sunday about how much he would be willing to spend, but noted that he dedicated $600 million of his own money to anti-smoking efforts.

“When I care about something, I care about something,” Bloomberg said.

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2 Comments

  • #1.   Kerry Stottlemyer 12.16.2012

    Really??? We have to do something to prevent deaths by illegal guns?? What the criminals have a get out of jail free card? The guns are Illegal that means a law HAS been broken. Arrest someone you ignorant fool.

    Quote
    “It’s time for the president to stand up and lead and tell this country what we should do,” he said. “This should be his number 1 agenda. He’s the president of the United States and if he does nothing in his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed by illegal guns.”

    Do you even know what you said

  • #2.   Laurie Bennett 12.16.2012

    Not at all clear on what your point is. But Bloomberg does urge stricter enforcement of existing laws.

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