NYC Mayor Bloomberg: Gun control tipping point of Illinois special election

Rachel Rose Hartman

During a victory lap in Washington on Wednesday, Michael Bloomberg hailed the issue of gun control as the reason why his PAC's favored candidate, state Rep. Robin Kelly, won Illinois' special election on Tuesday night.

"We showed in Illinois that by explaining to the public what's at stake here—it's their lives, it's their kids' and grandkids' lives, their parents' lives—[that] we need sensible gun laws," Bloomberg, mayor of New York City and a staunch gun-control advocate, told reporters at the White House. The statement came after a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on gun reform.

Kelly won the all-important Democratic primary in Illinois to succeed Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned in November after an extended absence from Congress amid health issues and a growing ethics scandal. Kelly beat out Democrats including top candidate and former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who does not support a federal assault weapons ban.

Bloomberg's political action committee, Independence USA, reportedly invested millions in the race.

On Wednesday, in addition to his meeting with Biden—which Bloomberg said was also attended by the vice president's son, Beau Biden—Bloomberg spoke with Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona, as well as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to push the issue of gun control.

The mayor, who said he counted all of the lawmakers as friends, noted none of them "made a specific commitment" to him on the issue. Bloomberg identified "expanding background checks to two new methods of buying guns" as a "high priority" for legislation.

The mayor did not offer a guess on the timing and components of gun legislation, but said he believes gun reform is now inevitable. "The tone has changed in the country," he said.

Bloomberg has been regularly speaking with Biden as the administration works to stem gun violence in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.

After that shooting, Bloomberg publicly criticized the administration and Congress for not acting legislatively to stop gun violence.