(CNN) – While New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said two months ago he was determined to fight for a ban on assault weapons, the outspoken gun critic said Monday he's concentrated on another legislative proposal.
"Our focus is on background checks," he said on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
Bloomberg was confirming reports that Sen. John McCain had said the mayor was focusing on background checks. The two met last month.
In the interview, the mayor also elaborated on why he's spending his own money in the gun debate, and whether he plans to continue spreading his cash after his third term ends in 2014.
Talking about gun control, Bloomberg pointed to statistics showing the vast majority of gun deaths, including suicides, in the United States come from hand guns, not assault weapons.
"This year in America, 12,000 people will be killed with handguns. Four hundred people will be killed with assault weapons or high capacity magazines," he said. "So it is the vast bulk of - of the, uh, murders are done with handguns."
Lawmakers in Washington have floated a number of proposals to combat gun violence since the Connecticut elementary school shooting in December that killed 20 children and six adults. Of those proposals, a push to strengthen the background check system has proved to be the most likely to get through Congress.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill last week that would expand background checks covering all U.S. firearms sales, including private transactions by non-licensed sellers. The bill now goes to a full vote in the Senate.
It also approved a new ban on semiautomatic firearms modeled after military assault weapons. The bill, however, has little chance of becoming law due to fierce opposition by the National Rifle Association and a certain GOP filibuster.
In January, Bloomberg acknowledged that a ban on assault weapons would be "a tougher sell" but said he was nevertheless "optimistic."
"There are lives involved here. And if you can save one life, isn't that worth trying?" Bloomberg said two months ago on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."
The mayor on Monday reiterated his concern about those types of guns, saying they still need to be kept out of the hands of non-military gun owners.
"They don't belong in the home and they don't belong in big cities. They're weapons of war," he said on "The Lead." "They're designed to kill people, not to protect anybody."
However, he was also ready to emphasize a need for a more robust background check system.
"The 14 states that have taken on the burden of also having background checks for gun shows and for internet sales, they reduced their suicide rate by 50 percent," he said. "So gun background checks really do work."
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group co-chaired by Bloomberg, has had an active role in the recent gun debate. The group has purchased air time for ads and held events on Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to take action on the issue.
Bloomberg's super PAC, Independence USA, spent $2 million in the recent Democratic primary for the Illinois special election to fill Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat. The group successfully backed state Rep. Robin Kelly over former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who opposed an assault weapons ban.
Asked if his efforts to influence political races were similar to actions taken by Charles and David Koch–the billionaire brothers who've been much maligned by opponents for injecting their wealth into the political scene–Bloomberg said he has no problem with what they're doing.
He added he knows David Koch well and argued Koch is simply tying to help "get the policies that he thinks would be better for society."
"He's using his own money. I have no problems with what he's doing. And I'm sure he wouldn't have any problems with what I've done," he said.
As for what the mayor will do next, he said: "I guess go out and look for a job."
"I work cheap," he said. "I get paid a dollar a year now. So, uh, the salary is not going to be the problem."
I think you should focus on the big gulp soft drinks again because their are no assault weapons for sell in the gun stores.
That's one of the many problems with you and your uneducated liberal friends is that you don't know the difference between an assault weapon and a semi-automatic weapon. The only people that have assault weapons are the Military, police, FBI, CIA, SBI, ABC, and I would assume the Border Patrol I am sure there are more but they are legal to have one not the ordinary people out here. Get your facts straight there are more kid backed over every week (50) a month by cars and trucks than killed by guns. That was reported by USA Today check it out.
March Madness – Canada has 20 players in MM it is just a matter of time and with more and more Canadians – guns will be totally OUTLAWED in the US
background checks are becoming far too prevalent in our society.
wiseup: ALL gun sales should go through a background check, whether it be in a licensed gun shop at a gun show or private sale. If background checks are done, Past felons or those with registered mentally defecicency would be denied. I believe anybody selling a gun without a backgroung check and that gun is used in a robbery or murder that seller should be arrested and charged as an accessary to murder. If backgroung check was done and this happens that seller is safe
Background checks to by a 32oz soda!!
I suppose many easily distracted Americans have lost focus on the slaughter of children and accepted the foolish notion that the 2nd Amendment gives people the right to own any sort of weapon. It doesn't and common sense should prevail. The N.R.A.'s radical position and fear-mongering has caused me to consider supporting much more stringent laws for firearm ownership – weird because as I type this comment I'm ten feet away from my safe filled with a lifetime collection of sporting rifles, shotguns and pistols. I don't want to identified with the new crowd of gun-sports enthusiasts.
Should there be background checks for people trying to vote or get welfare in America? How about just requiring photo ID? No? That would be a violation of their "right" to invade America at will? Sorry, mayor Bloomberg.
come on, buddy you could at least make a consistant argument. and get yer dirty paws off my soda and cigs, they make me happy.
Pass gun-ban and sign.