$50 Million for Gun Control

  • Public-Policy Reform
  • 2014

Though he is no longer mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg continues to nudge public policy—these days as a donor. In 2014 he put up $50 million to create an educational nonprofit (with separate lobbying and campaign-donation arms) to push for stricter gun control. To put that in perspective, $50 million is about two and a half times what the National Rifle Association spent that same year to campaign for gun-owner rights.

In the run-up to the 2014 election, Bloomberg’s groups surveyed candidates on gun issues, and bought millions of dollars of TV issue ads. The allied political action committee made campaign donations to selected candidates at the state and federal levels. Ad Age calculated that Bloomberg’s money allowed gun-control groups to outspend gun-owner groups by 7:1 on television advertising.

Even still, gun controllers didn’t do well in the 2014 election. Bloomberg is swimming against inhospitable policy currents. According to the Pew Research Center, public support for gun control deteriorated steadily over the last two decades. When asked “Is it more important to control gun ownership or protect the right of Americans to own guns?” the public flipped from favoring gun control 57-34 percent in 1993, to favoring gun-ownership rights 52-46 percent in 2014. A sharp drop in the rate of murder committed with firearms between 1993 and 2011—from 6.6 victims to 3.2 victims per 100,000 population—corresponds with a large rise in gun ownership during that same period. Americans owned 310 million firearms in 2009, up from 192 million in 1994.