Former New York City Mayor Michael I. Bloomberg is planning to spend $50 million this year to promote gun control and target Democrats and Republicans alike on the issue, saying he hopes to provide a counterweight to the well-funded gun lobby.
His newly-announced group, Everytown for Gun Safety, wants to create one million gun-issue voters in this year’s congressional elections, and Mr. Bloomberg “will spend what needs to be spent to make Americans safer,” John Feinblatt, the group’s president, said Wednesday.
Shannon Watts, who helped start the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is being folded into the Bloomberg group, said they also will have a presence at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention next week in Indiana.
“See you in Indianapolis next week,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said in response. “We’ll have a lot more to say then.”
Because of the ideological split on the issue, Mr. Bloomberg’s effort is likely to boost Democrats more than Republicans. But he made clear in an interview with the New York Times that any member who opposes his gun control agenda is at risk.
“I care very much about immigration,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “But guns are the No. 1 thing. So I’ve got a senator who’s running for re-election. He’s terrible on guns but good on immigration. I’m going after him. That’s it.”
He becomes the latest billionaire vowing to play a role in the political conversation this year.
Democrats have been brutally critical of others — in particular, conservative-leaning billionaires Charles and David Koch — for what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said amounted to “trying to buy America.”
Mr. Reid’s Senate and political offices didn’t respond to requests for comment about the Bloomberg initiative.
Mr. Bloomberg has been a major donor to Senate Majority PAC, a group that bills itself as a counterweight to the Kochs. The group, staffed by former aides to Mr. Reid, received $2.5 million from Mr. Bloomberg.
But Mr. Bloomberg’s new group left open the possibility Wednesday of going after endangered incumbent Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who voted against expanding background checks on gun sales last year.
Mr. Bloomberg has had mixed results since making gun control one of his pet issues.
A measure to tighten gun-purchase background checks fell victim to a filibuster in the U.S. Senate last April and while a number of states have enacted their own strict controls on military-style semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, about half have either loosened their gun laws or tried to move in that direction since 20 children and six educators were killed in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.