Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Post-Arizona, Bloomberg Gun Group Returns to Spotlight
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 12:34 PM
There was a period when Mayors Against Illegal Guns made serious waves. The group, formed by Mayors Bloomberg and Thomas Menino, in Boston, grew by leaps and bounds, signing up hundreds of mayors across the country and prompting the NRA to target the group in campaign ads.
However, over the last year or so, that growth has reached a plateau (it still claims to have around 500 members), and the group has had a quieter presence. But the shootings in Arizona have thrust the mayor and his group back into the national spotlight. For a mayor who's been dogged by a snowstorm furor, the issue of gun control appears to present steady ground.
“Just as we saw after Virginia Tech, the Arizona tragedy has once again exposed fatal cracks in our background check system,” said Mayor Bloomberg at City Hall today. “The law says that drug abusers can't buy guns, but even though Jared Loughner was rejected by the military for drug use and arrested on drug charges, he was able to pass a background check and buy a gun. It should be clear to everyone that the system is broken and it is time for our leaders in Washington to step up and fix it.”
In addition to fixing the background check gap, Bloomberg has called for better information sharing between federal agencies. He also wants the Senate to appoint a Director at the ATF, ending a four-and-a-half year opening. The mayor was joined by Congressman Peter King, who said he would introduce legislation making it illegal to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of the president, vice president, members of Congress or federal judges.
Has the current furor changed the political climate so fundamentally that gun control is more viable? Too early to say. In the words of John Bruce, a University of Mississippi scholar, the gun lobby "got through all the school shootings -- Pearl, Mississippi, Jonesboro, Arkansas, Columbine, with no real changes in the law. No real changes in access."
In 2009, Mayors Against Illegal Guns issued a 40-point blueprint for dealing with illegal gun trafficking. According to a spokesman for MAIG, the president backed one of those proposals, on the matter of ATF demand letters. On the remaining 39 points, the group says the White House has been "silent."