- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2019

Former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made his pet issue of gun control a priority for his presidential campaign Thursday, building off more than a decade worth of work since leaving office in what was his campaign’s first major policy rollout since announcing his candidacy last week.

Speaking from Aurora, Colorado, the New York billionaire said the nation’s gun violence epidemic hasn’t been solved because politicians have viewed it as a problem plaguing Hispanic and African American communities, thus not acting to solve the “nationwide madness.”

Mr. Bloomberg has mapped out an unconventional path to the Democratic nomination.

He plans to skip the first four primary states in favor of focusing on the more delegate-rich states, including Colorado, which will be among more than a dozen states that will hold their nomination contests on Super Tuesday in early March. The Super Tuesday primaries account for 40% of the Democratic Party’s delegates.

That plan served as a backdrop for Mr. Bloomberg’s policy rollout Thursday, as Mr. Bloomberg was surrounded by gun control advocacy groups he helped to launch since leaving office.

“They look the other way,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “As president, I will attack gun violence from every angle.”

After visiting a memorial honoring the 12 victims who died at the 2012 mass shooting inside a movie theater in Aurora, Mr. Bloomberg blasted President Trump for not taking up House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill requiring background checks for gun purchases.

“Donald Trump seems to accept this violence and pain,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

The businessman released a five-part plan to tackle the issue, starting with creating a more effective background check system.

He wants “point of sale” background checks for all firearm purchases, requiring anyone buying a gun to also hold a permit.

The former mayor also wants to “keep guns out of the wrong hands,” touting red flag laws and closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers to possess firearms.

As president, Mr. Bloomberg would reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons and prohibit high capacity magazines. A 10-year ban on assault weapons expired in 2004 after being enacted by President Clinton. Some studies have suggested the ban had little effect on curtailing homicide rates.

Mr. Bloomberg also said gun violence in hard-hit communities would be a priority of his, suggesting more than $100 million should be dedicated annually to local programs to curtail the problem.

His plan also aims to hold gun makers accountable by doing away with laws that shield them from civil liability.

Other points included in his plan include raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21, prohibiting 3D printing of weapons, and banning guns from school campuses.

“I don’t accept kids being murdered at school is something we should get used to,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

In an Economist/YouGov poll surveying about 1,500 people released this week, 54% of the respondents said gun control was a “very important” election issue.

The National Rifle Association called Mr. Bloomberg “hypocritical” for the plan.

“Bloomberg wants gun registration and every oppressive/failed gun control scheme ever conceived,” the pro-gun group tweeted “This hypocritical billionaire, with 24/7 armed guards, doesn’t believe self-defense is a fundamental human right or that gun ownership is a right as determined by the Supreme Court.”

Advocacy groups that have worked with Mr. Bloomberg on gun control praised his leadership and making it a major priority of his presidential campaign.

“It’s no surprise Mayor Bloomberg has put forward a bold and comprehensive agenda to address a gun violence crisis that claims 100 lives every day in America and wounds hundreds more,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“This is an extraordinary moment as presidential candidates are vying to be the biggest and boldest on the issue of gun safety, in stark contrast to past cycles,” she added.

In addition to tackling gun violence, Mr. Bloomberg has been speaking about criminal justice reform this week. He aims to reduce incarceration rates that affect minorities disproportionately and said he would announce a comprehensive plan in the coming weeks.

⦁ Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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