A group of 300 mayors from across the nation have banded together to produce an advertisement aimed at forcing the three remaining presidential hopefuls — Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain — to tackle gun control.
The ad is being released nationwide today and will appear on television, radio and the Internet. The release coincides with the third annual Mayors Coalition Against Illegal Guns in Washington, D.C., which also begins today.
"All three want to be the president of the United States. One of them will be, and it's time to show leadership. Don't just talk about it, but actually stand up," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "We're trying to highlight to everybody there are more people murdered with illegal handguns every day in the United States than were killed at Virginia Tech."
The ad released today features Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and Jacksonville, Fla. Mayor John Peyton calling on candidates to address gun control issues more often.
"All three candidates said they oppose the gun show loophole, which allows criminals to buys guns illegally and murder innocent Americans," the mayors said in the television ad.
The controversial topic of gun control hasn't received much attention from candidates this election season, which has primarily focused on the economy, the war in Iraq and experience.
"This is the kind of thing that will make the candidates get very uncomfortable. Gun control is not an issue that any of these candidates wants to bring up right now. For the candidates, it's a lose-lose," said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. "To have prominent mayors — including Bloomberg, who has been courted assiduously by all three presidential candidates — push them on an issue where they lose more voters than they gain is a nightmare."
The topic is a passionate one for Bloomberg, who said he has spoken with McCain, Clinton and Obama about it.
"I have brought up the subject with all three," Bloomberg said. "I have not been reticent to tell them my views. … All three are on record, and we're going to run some ads starting today, showing when they said, 'I want to,' in this case, 'end the gun-show loophole.'"
Bloomberg added that the effort isn't just aimed at the candidates, but also citizens.
"The idea is to tell people what the issue is and to get people to call their congressman and to call their senators," he said.
The timing of the ad release could make things difficult for Clinton and Obama, who are speeding toward next week's highly anticipated Pennsylvania primary.
"Pennsylvania is a state with a lot of hunters, and both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are trying to appeal to those blue collar Democrats in the middle of the state, not the ones in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh where the mayors are going to be strongly for these kinds of measures, but the ones in between. This is not an issue they want to highlight," Ornstein said.
"We know that presidential candidates, when they look at the calculus, find that the number of people who will vote for them because they're for tougher gun laws is swamped by the number of people who will not only vote against them, but work night and day to defeat them," Ornstein said.