Bloomberg targets gun lobby with €50m fund to fight for strict laws
Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, said he would have "earned my place in heaven" as he announced plans to pour $50m (€30m) of his fortune into the fight for stricter gun laws in America.
The billionaire's investment is intended to build a campaign organisation dedicated to combating the power of the National Rifle Association (NRA), America's foremost gun lobby group.
"We've got to make them afraid of us," Mr Bloomberg (inset) told 'The New York Times'.
Campaigners hope that Mr Bloomberg's money will breathe fresh life into the stalled effort to curb gun violence.
The White House began a push for new gun laws after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in December 2012, in which 20 primary schoolchildren and six teachers were killed.
That effort collapsed in April last year when Senate Republicans and a handful of conservative Democrats voted against even a small expansion of background checks for people trying to buy guns.
The April vote was seen as a triumph for the NRA – which spends millions supporting candidates from both parties.
However, he also said: "We need to mobilise and organise just as the NRA has done," Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, said. "It has to be done in communities, at the grassroots." Mr Bloomberg's millions are intended to begin building that national movement by uniting disparate gun control groups into a single organisation under the name Everytown for Gun Safety.
The group will focus on mothers and suburban women, the voters who often decide US elections, and involve large numbers of campaign-style field staff.
Despite the infusion of cash, the group's goals will remain relatively modest. It will focus on expanding background checks and fighting gun trafficking rather than outlawing assault weapons or magazines capable of carrying dozens of rounds.
Mr Bloomberg (72) is a political independent but tends to support liberal causes such as the environment, same-sex marriage and reform of America's immigration laws.
He said he would not hesitate to attack Democrats from conservative states who failed to support tougher gun laws, even at the risk of seeing them lose to Republicans.
"Guns are the number one thing," he said.
"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."
The former mayor, who is the 10th richest person in America and often accused of big city elitism, made no effort to placate the roughly 37pc of Americans estimated to have a gun in their home.
"I think having a gun at home when you have children is really dumb," he said last night. (©Daily Telegraph, London)