Tucson Shooting Used by Columbus Mayor’s Staff to Press for Tougher Gun Laws
R. Lee Roberts, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s lobbyist for Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), worked with staffers of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to leverage the shooting of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords for new federal gun restrictions. His work with the Bloomberg-founded national group and other Coleman staffers to use the Tucson rampage as a selling point for anti-gun legislation is confirmed in emails obtained by Media Trackers.
On January 13, 2011, five days after the shooting in Arizona, a Bloomberg employee prepping for a conference call sent MAIG regional coordinators a background document claiming Giffords’ shooter, Jared Loughner, could have “walked into any gun show and bought a car load of guns with no background check, no questions asked.”
Roberts participated in the January 13 conference call and an email from Roberts to MAIG leadership indicates Mayor Coleman called in as well.
In an email to Roberts and other MAIG lobbyists sent later that day, Janey Rountree, “Coalition Coordinator and Special Counsel” for Bloombergs office, wrote, “Our general framework is that the gun background check system is broken: not enough records in the system and too many loopholes.”
Rountree suggested that “the first priority is to make the case about why that impacts the mayors in your state. What are the major shootings and other tragedies that resulted from loopholes in the law and insufficient background checks?”
As examples, Rountree listed “Cop who was shot in Seattle” and “Gun shows fueling the drug cartel war in Mexico.”
On January 18, Rountree sent Roberts a confidential draft of a MAIG memo titled “A Plan to Prevent Future Tragedies.” The memo suggested Congress was at fault for the shooting because Loughner was able to legally purchase a gun, repeating the claim that even if Loughner had failed a background check he could have “walked into any gun show and bought a car load of guns with no background check, no questions asked.”
“The mayors have come together around a simple, straightforward idea: respect the rights of responsible law-abiding Americans and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, drug abusers, the mentally ill, and other dangerous people,” the MAIG memo asserts. Although the phrase appears frequently in MAIG communications, “other dangerous people” is not defined.
Days later as Mayor Coleman’s staff discussed his upcoming State of the City address, Roberts was informed of plans to incorporate MAIG rhetoric into the speech as a justification for increased gun regulations in Columbus and elsewhere.
Regarding inclusion of the Tucson shooting in the speech, a coworker informed Roberts that she had advised Coleman to “keep an open mind as we watch the possible nationwide change in lingo. If it takes off, we can change it, if it doesnt, well keep it as is.”
On January 20, Roberts contacted Toby Hoover, the director of Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, asking for “a list of everyone that has been killed with a gun since the Giffords shooting.” Hoover replied that he didn’t know of “anyone who can monitor the entired [sic] state.”
The following day William Swenson in Mayor Bloomberg’s office sent Roberts additional talking points, including, “the right to sell a gun in a parking lot with no background check doesn’t trump the right of Christina Green [one of Loughner's victims in Tucson] to turn ten years old. Or whatever it is we want them to say…”
In the wake of the Tucson shooting, Bloomberg employee Adam Amir emailed MAIG staff to inform them public opinion was moving against MAIG despite their attempt to use Loughner’s rampage to spur increased federal restrictions on gun ownership.
Copying an MSNBC story titled “How the Numbers Shifted Against Gun Control,” which Amir described as a “pretty bad article for us,” Amir complained that “Dems wont move gun control legislation because they need to win in progun areas in order to keep majority control.”
The MSNBC story attributed the increase in popular support for the Second Amendment to “vast [National Rifle Association] resources” and “a decrease in crime over the past 20 years.”
MAIG’s actions following the Tucson shooting closely resemble attempts to capitalize on a 2012 shooting in Chardon, Ohio.