Bloomberg Uses Commencement Speech to Push Gun Control, Rail Against ‘Extremist’ NRA

By Elizabeth Harrington | May 20, 2013 | 10:57am EDT

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (AP File Photo)

( – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg used a commencement speech to push his gun-control agenda, telling graduates of Kenyon College in Ohio that gun control is “something you really should think about.”

Bloomberg, who co-chairs Mayors Against Illegal Guns, spent at least $14 million in support of legislation that would have required universal background checks for all gun-buyers. Although the bill died in the Senate on April 17, Bloomberg said the battle isn't over.

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“I believe we will win, sooner or later, because I believe that all of you, your generation more than any other at least since the 1960s, is reshaping society in fundamental ways by making your values known and your voices heard.”

Bloomberg said Congress's failure to pass the gun control bill was "Washington at its worst -- the worst thing that it's ever done."

"We'd not be fighting for change, I'd not be fighting for change and you would not be fighting for change if we didn't believe we could win.”

Bloomberg's theme was "courage," something too many members of Congress lacked in the gun control debate, he said.

“Have the courage to think for yourself and to believe in your ideas. That kind of courage lies at the heart of human invention and progress, and the lack of it lies at the heart of our political problems today,” he told the graduates. 

Bloomberg listed various mass shootings from Pittsburgh to Portland.  “And after each one, those in Washington just shrugged,” he said.

“Then Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut -- 20 children, six faculty members, all gunned down,” Bloomberg continued.  “As a parent I can tell you it is just unthinkable if it happened to one of your children.  After Newtown, President Obama and some congressional leaders finally, finally stood up and said something has to be done.”

“I did everything I could to support them and to push Congress to act, but our efforts so far have not been enough to pass a piece of legislation requiring background checks for all gun purchases, that 90 percent of Americans agree with, including more than 80 percent of gun owners,” he said.

“Why?  Why do I tell you this?” Bloomberg asked.  “Number one, this is one of the great tragedies happening in America and two, because I believe it comes down to one word, and that word is courage.”

“Too many members of Congress did not have the courage to stand up to the increasing extremist views of the NRA's Washington lobbyists,” he said.  “Many of them feared that voting for a common sense policy that would lead to someone challenging them in a primary, or hurt their chances to win a party's nomination to higher office is too big a price to pay for saving 30-odd thousand lives a year.”

Bloomberg spent the better part of his 15 minute address on gun control, telling the graduates that since they were freshmen four years ago, more than 40,000 American people have been murdered with guns.

"That's nearly as many Americans we lost in combat in the entire Vietnam War,” he said.

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