Gun control has largely been a top down effort. Michael Bloomberg’s latest announcement that he will spend another $50 million to push gun control – 2.5 times the amount spent by the NRA annually on political activities – is all too typical. Last year, gun control groups, largely due to Bloomberg’s money, outspent gun rights groups by about 7.4 to 1 on TV advertising.
Despite his money, mayors belonging to Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns represent only about 2.5 percent of America’s cities and towns (885 out of over 35,000) and most of these members represent very small towns.
Since December, Bloomberg has merged with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, but despite frequent prominent media appearances and Bloomberg’s funding, as of today, Moms Demand Action has 18 thousand followers on Twitter. No membership information is available and if you want to donate to their cause you are told to write the check to Bloomberg’s Mayors organization.
By contrast, the NRA has over 5 million members, with 219,000 Twitter followers.
But this $50 million is not all the money Bloomberg is spending on the gun issue as it doesn’t even count all the other money that he is putting into the issue. While the precise amount isn’t known, Bloomberg is also spending tens of millions on “public health” gun research (here is one study that he supported).
For example, last year Bloomberg announced a $250 million gift to Johns Hopkins that would fund 50 new professorships, some of which will be in the Bloomberg School of Public Health to study gun control. He also regularly funds activities such as a gun violence summit at Johns Hopkins.
The big concern is not the funding per se, but how incredibly biased and poorly done the research is.
Bloomberg’s dollars also go a lot farther than money spent by the other side. For example, a deeply flawed report released in February from Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action on school shootings was covered in more than 2,000 news stories.
When an equally flawed study in early 2013 from Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns claimed: "As a result, peer-reviewed research on gun violence has sharply declined. A review conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns showed that academic publishing on firearm violence fell by 60% between 1996 and 2010. ... Academics working in the field describe how constricted federal funding for firearm research has discouraged research in the area," some 2,340 news stories repeated this claim.
The announcement that Bloomberg was going to spend $50 million this year was itself greeted with uncritical coverage, from appearances on the Today Show to the New York Times.
Bloomberg’s push is just the tip of the iceberg. Literally hundreds of millions from not only Bloomberg but also from George Soros, many large foundations, and the Obama administration are starting to fund gun control research.
Jim Steyer, another billionaire, is also promising a big push on gun control during this election year.
Democrats are apoplectic about the $30 million that the Koch brothers have spent so far this year on campaigns, but Bloomberg’s $50 million or the millions that he has give to Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC aren’t mentioned. Let alone the $100 million that billionaire Tom Steyer pledges to back Democrats on Global Warming (half his own personal money).
Bloomberg points with pride to his work on gun control, obesity and smoking. “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close,” he happily told Jeremy Peters at the New York Times.
When Bloomberg gets the chance, he should ask God why his life deserves to be protected by guns, while others shouldn’t get the same protection.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.