Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayors Against Illegal Guns

It’s easy to think of the ultra wealthy as megalomaniac thugs driven by greed; utterly unconcerned about the good of society as a whole. It even brings a measure of satisfaction, especially if you’re one of the have-nots. Generalizations rarely apply to any individual, though, because what’s seen as megalomania and greed can also be huge lust for life and ultra powerful creativity.

It just isn’t black and white. Many celebrities, whether they’re politicians, business tycoons or A-list actors, spread their wealth in philanthropic ways. Some of them, like Oprah and Bill Gates, advertize it, making much of the huge money they contribute to society. In reality, it’s chump change to them which diminishes the heroism a little, but at least they’re doing something. Other celebrities, like Matt Damon, just go about their philanthropic business, using their celebrity status to promote projects but not to boost their egos.

Some celebrities do it all and stay in the news because their philanthropy is really newsworthy. Like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the 7th wealthiest man in the US, and founder of Bloomberg L.P., who took up the cause of gun control, not just in his own state but around the country.

He leads Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan, national coalition of mayors which he co-founded in 2006 with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. It started with 15 members and now has 1.4 million grassroots supporters and 950 mayors (Democrats, Republicans and Independents) from small towns and major cities in 45 states. The coalition’s campaign, originally focused on demanding a plan, has developed into its current initiative, Demand Action, that calls on Congress to legislate on requiring background checks for all gun sales, making gun trafficking a federal offense and limiting assault weapons and magazines.  

The NRA is fighting back as hard as it can against Mayor Bloomberg and the coalition. The Huffington Post reported CEO Wayne LaPierre saying the campaign is insane and based on a “dishonest premise” – namely that criminals will not submit to the background checks and that the system of tracking will be abused. Fine rationale, that. Might as well dispense with law and order altogether.

They’re tilting at windmills. A report released by the coalition in early March showed results from 21 statewide polls and 41 congressional district polls conducted among likely voters. An average of 86% in the former and 89% in the latter supported background checks on all gun sales.

That Mayor Bloomberg uses some of his money and power to actively promote gun control says a lot about him. He and his coalition are active everywhere, building support for federal regulations to reduce gun violence, employing lobbyists. The New York Times reported on Sunday that Bloomberg recently spent $13.3 million, which included $2.3 million on defeating candidates for an Illinois House seat who were against gun control.

$13.3 million sounds like a lot of money, but it isn’t to Bloomberg – in fact it’s only .05% of his worth. And it’s not as if that’s a static figure, as it would be if he’d just won the lottery. It’s being topped up every second of every day. Still, what he’s doing is truly impressive.

And let’s never forget that anybody who fights this openly for gun control does so knowing they’re putting their own life in danger. Two letters containing the deadly poison Ricin were sent to Bloomberg and the coalition. Another recently sent to the White House and suspected of being from the same source is reported to be under investigation. 

Looking at what Bloomberg and the coalition are doing it’s easy to segue into imagining what could be achieved if the top 10 wealthiest people in US and corporations like Google, Facebook and Apple joined forces on this. Especially if they went all out and committed billions instead of millions. It's hard to understand why they don’t. It’s in everybody’s interests to diminish the power of the NRA and gun manufacturers and create a stable society where people buy gadgets and products instead of guns. A child could understand that.

Public Domain Photos: Mayor Michael Bloomberg