New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday called for President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to lead a national debate about gun control, so far a non-issue in the presidential campaign.
“You want our votes. What are you going to do about it?” Bloomberg, an independent, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Bloomberg applied pressure on the presidential candidates two days after a gunman killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. using an assault rifle and other semiautomatic weapons. Both Obama and Romney have muted their campaign rhetoric since the shooting spree and offered condolences to the victims’ families.
But neither has shown an immediate desire to discuss gun policy.
“Expressing sympathy is nice ... but somebody’s got to do something about this,” Bloomberg said. “And this requires, particularly in a presidential year, the candidates for president of the United States to stand up and once and for all say, yes, they feel terrible. Yes, it’s a tragedy. Yes, we have great sympathy for the families, but it’s time for this country to do something. And that’s the job of the president of the United States.”
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Bloomberg added, “but I think it’s incumbent on them to tell us specifically, not just in broad terms.”
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed a state ban on assault weapons in 2004, when a federal ban was about to expire. But Romney has not made renewing the federal ban part of his presidential campaign platform and has courted the support of the National Rifle Association.
“We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen and those who seek to protect their homes and their families,” Romney said at the NRA convention in April. “President Obama has not; I will.”
Obama said shortly after taking office that he would push to reinstate the assault weapons ban, but he appeared to back off before the 2010 midterm election and has said little about the ban since.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said Sunday that a gun control debate is certain to follow the shooting in Aurora, but he played down its importance.
“I think that debate’s going to happen; it already has started,” Hickenlooper said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But you look at this person—almost a creature—if he couldn’t have gotten access to the guns, what kind of bomb would he have manufactured? I mean we’re in a time, an information age where there’s access to all kinds of information.”
Arizona Senator John McCain, a Republican, also expressed skepticism about whether regulation can prevent shootings like the one in Aurora.
“I think that we need to look at everything, and everything should be looked at,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But to think that somehow gun control, or increased gun control, is the answer—in my view, that has to be proved.”
Even Bloomberg said “we don’t need more laws.” But, Bloomberg said, “we need a couple of fixes,” and he challenged Obama, Romney and the press to devote less time to “talking about tax returns and gaffes and things like that” and more to time to gun control, which he called “one of those issues, along with a handful of others, that really matter to the American public.”
“It’s up to these two presidential candidates,” Bloomberg said. “They want to lead this country, and they’ve said things before that they’re in favor of banning things like assault weapons. Where are they now, and why don’t they stand up? And if they want our votes, they better.”Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.