NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined loved ones of victims of shootings from Colorado to Virginia to blast U.S. lawmakers on Monday for being too cowed by the firearms lobby to pass gun control laws that could save lives.
At a City Hall press conference, Bloomberg described Friday’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school as “no aberration,” and said it should make tightening gun laws the top priority of the president and Congress.
“Somehow or other, we’ve come to think that getting reelected is more important than saving lives, that political power is more important than saving lives,” he said in an angry, emotional tone. “Enough.”
The mayor was joined by more than two dozen survivors and relatives of victims of mass shootings including the gun violence at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, last July, at a 2011 public meeting held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, and at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Any one of those earlier massacres should have been cause enough to tighten gun laws, he said.
“This is an outrage,” Bloomberg said, referring to the disproportionately high number of gun deaths in the U.S. compared to other developed nations. “We are killing each other, and we are the only industrialized nation doing it.”
Bloomberg is the co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 700 U.S. mayors advocating against gun violence.
He said the coalition was calling for Congress to require a criminal background check for all gun sales, closing what he said was an “enormous” loophole whereby private gun sales — whether online or at gun shows — do not require such checks.
He also called for Congress to ban “military-style” assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to pass laws making gun trafficking a felony.
“It’s not a panacea,” he said of these measures, “it wouldn’t get rid of all the guns on the streets, but it would go a long way towards limiting them and limiting the number of people killed.”
Bloomberg also urged the president to fill the six-year-old vacancy at the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been run by a series of acting directors since 2006.
He also criticized the U.S. Department of Justice for not prosecuting people who fail background checks due to fraudulent applications. In 2009, the department prosecuted only 77 out of the more than 71,000 such cases uncovered by the FBI, Bloomberg said.
Neither the ATF nor the Justice Department immediately responded to a request for comment on the mayor’s assertions.
New York’s billionaire mayor formed a super PAC this year, and suggested on Monday he would consider using those funds to counteract the lobbying of groups such as the National Rifle Association that typically oppose tighter gun laws.
“I’m going to do what I think is appropriate to try to impact the dialogue,” he said. “Shame on me if I don’t.”
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Andrew Hay