In his first major initiative since leaving office, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans on Wednesday to launch a new gun control organization that he hopes can rival the National Rifle Association.
The grassroots umbrella group, called Everytown, is "a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities."
"For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by leaders who refuse to take commonsense steps that will save lives," says the organization's mission statement.
“They say, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to go after you,’” Bloomberg told the New York Times of the NRA. “‘If you don’t vote with us we’re going to go after your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids. And we’re never going to stop.’ ... We’ve got to make them afraid of us."
The NRA has yet to respond publicly.
The former New York City mayor and founder of Bloomberg L.P. is investing $50 million for the launch.
“He’s got the money to waste,” Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, told the paper. “So I guess he’s free to do so. But frankly, I think he’s going to find out why his side keeps losing.”
Bloomberg, though, insists he's not trying to outspend the NRA.
"This is not a battle of dollars," Bloomberg said on NBC's "Today" show. "This is a battle for the hearts and minds of America so that we can protect our children, protect innocent people. You take a look at the number of people who use illegal guns to commit suicide, the number of people that are killed every year—we're the only civilized country in the world that has this problem. We have to do something."
In the wake of deadly shootings in Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., Fort Hood, Texas, and elsewhere, Bloomberg is hoping his new group can do what President Barack Obama has not: successfully lobby for stricter gun control laws.
"People will vote for whatever they think is in their own self-interest to get elected and re-elected," Bloomberg said on the "Today" show. "We've got to convince them that the 80 percent of gun owners, the 90 percent of Americans who are in favor of just simple background checks to make sure criminals, minors and people with psychiatric problems can't buy guns—something that's common sense—we've got to make sure they understand that's what the public wants."
Bloomberg points to the election of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the NRA's home state as proof his gun control lobbying can work.
"This is a battle we're going to win," Bloomberg told Yahoo News' Katie Couric last month. "This is not a partisan issue. I know people say, 'Well, one party's in more favor, one party's against.' They are individual votes and I will support individual senators and congressmen who vote to make my kids safer and your kids safer."
Bloomberg dismissed the idea that his gun control initiatives are paving the way for a presidential run.
"No is the answer," he said on "Today." "Plain and simple. I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to make a better world for myself, for my kids, for my grandchildren."