Bloomberg pushes background checks

CBS News

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, perhaps the single highest-profile advocate for stricter gun control laws in America, said he is "optimistic Congress will do something" to rein in gun violence during an interview on "Face the Nation."

Bloomberg voiced support for an assault weapons ban but argued that a national background check system for gun purchases would actually be a more effective way to curb gun violence. "The truth of the matter is only about 400 people a year get killed with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines," he said. "That is 400 too many, and they're all tragedies. But you compare that to handguns, pistols this year are going to kill 12,000 Americans. And 19,000 Americans are going to commit suicide with handguns."

"Federal law requires background checks when a gun dealer sells you a gun," Bloomberg noted, "but no background check if the sale is done over the Internet or a gun show. Fourteen states have closed that loophole and in those 14 states the suicide rate is half the national average, and the number of women that get killed in domestic violence is something like 40 percent less than in other states. So background checks do work."

Bloomberg blamed the lack of prior action on gun control on the long political shadow cast by the National Rifle Association, noting, "Up until now it has only been the NRA that has been talking about guns to the public and to Congress.

With his own advocacy, including the work done by his group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg said he hopes to "level the playing field and bring out the facts."

"There are a lot of people that want to join in this fight and give an alternative to the NRA," he said, holding up the victory of a Bloomberg-backed pro-gun control candidate in an Illinois special election as evidence.

"I It's simply a question of information," he said, "and we did that in Illinois a couple weeks ago, where we explained to the public the views of the different candidates when it comes to allowing guns to be purchased by kids and drug dealers, and then the public went to the polls and they voted. And they voted for somebody that, who I've never met, but they voted for somebody who thinks that we should not allow those people that wouldn't responsibly be able to handle a gun to buy one. And they did not vote for the person that did."

The mayor also addressed the row sparked by his decision to ban large sugary drinks in the Big Apple, framing the policy as a way to encourage healthier personal choices.

"This is in the country's interest," Bloomberg said. "This year, for the first time in the history of the world, more people will die from too much food than from too little food. More people will die from the effects of obesity than from starvation."

"And we've got to do something about this," he added. "This is going to bankrupt the country. Our medical system cannot handle it."

"We're not banning anything," he clarified, noting that people can still purchase multiple drinks to reach their desired calorie quota. "It's called portion control...what government's trying to do is to inform you that if you're overweight and you have all these empty calories and you keep eating, that your health is going to suffer and you will live a not as healthy, and a shorter life."

Bloomberg also praised President Obama's recent "charm offensive," which has seen the president meeting more regularly with Republican lawmakers. "You can always work better with somebody that you have a chance to build a social relationship with," he said.

"Look, the President's job is to lead Congress. I find it fascinating people criticize him for taking people to dinner - he should be doing that every night," Bloomberg said. "They criticize him for going and playing golf with people that he's got to deal with. He should be doing that every weekend."