Bloomberg Goes to Washington to Push Gun Laws, but Senate Has Other Ideas

by JACKIE CALMES and JEREMY W. PETERS,  |  published on March 1, 2013

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York met separately on Wednesday with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and several senators, a day after his campaign for tougher gun laws was newly fortified by the victory of his preferred candidate in a special Congressional primary election in Chicago where he had spent more than $2 million.

Meanwhile, a Senate hearing that included witnesses from the shooting in Newtown, Conn., aired exchanges both poignant and petulant. Questions by Republican senators underscored just how difficult a path such gun-control legislation faces despite the national horror over massacres like the one in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

While much of Washington seemed preoccupied by the partisan budget impasse and countdown to the automatic spending cuts scheduled to begin Friday, the maneuvering over the issue of gun violence was indicative of proponents’ efforts to keep it alive even as many fear that the sense of urgency after the Newtown shootings is waning. Speaking to reporters on leaving his White House meeting with Mr. Biden, Mr. Bloomberg took some credit for the victory by Robin Kelly, the Cook County chief administrative officer, in Tuesday’s crowded Democratic primary race for the House seat vacated by Jesse L. Jackson Jr.

The mayor’s “super PAC” independently funneled $2.2 million into the campaign on advertisements that extolled Ms. Kelly and her support for national gun legislation and criticized a leading rival who opposed banning assault weapons and was endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Victory in the Democratic primary is considered tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic House district. The election is next month.

Mr. Bloomberg told the reporters that the Kelly primary victory was a sign of what can happen when the public stands up to the gun lobby. Yet analysts in both parties and on both sides of the gun issue cautioned against reading too much into the outcome in a big-city, heavily black district where firearms restrictions generally are popular.

Mr. Biden, who since the Newtown massacre has been leading the Obama administration’s push for legislation, has met with Mr. Bloomberg several times to coordinate that effort. The mayor also met Wednesday with the Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, who controls that body’s schedule, and with three Republican senators whose willingness to compromise is crucial to any gun legislation’s success: Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois, both moderates, and John McCain of Arizona.

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