Presidential contender Michael Bloomberg on Sunday called New York City's restriction on where gun owners can transport their guns "unnecessary," despite defending the same restriction when he was mayor.
"It imposed an unnecessary restriction on gun owners' ability to visit ranges—and it was rightly rescinded," Bloomberg wrote in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune about the regulation currently being challenged before the Supreme Court.
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However, in a filing defending the regulation during Bloomberg's tenure as mayor, the city's lawyers argued "it is clear" the travel restriction "serves an important or substantial government interest in public safety." The June 2013 filing further said the rule, which prohibited gun owners from taking their firearms anywhere other than approved ranges in the city, did not burden "core" Second Amendment rights, and that police needed it in order to decide where people could transport their firearms.
The contradiction between Bloomberg's legal actions as mayor and his statement as a presidential candidate may call into question his credibility. His new contention that one of New York City's restrictive gun laws was unnecessary contrasts with his position as the largest donor to the gun-control movement, which has long pushed for New York-style gun laws across the country.
In his op-ed, Bloomberg echoed a line of reasoning widely used by gun-control advocates, claiming that New York's late-stage undoing of the law the city defended during his tenure as mayor makes the lawsuit unnecessary. Bloomberg further wrote that the National Rifle Association, which is supporting the suit, is attempting to use it as a "trojan horse" to challenge a wide range of gun-control laws.
"The NRA wants the court to use the (already resolved) New York issue to deal a death blow to even more basic public safety protections, such as barring domestic abusers from possessing guns, a step that many states have taken, thanks in large part to groups like Everytown for Gun Safety (which I helped found) and its 6 million supporters," he said. "Other lifesaving laws could also be vulnerable if the court issues a sweeping ruling that overturns recent precedent."
Amy Hunter, director of media relations for the NRA, criticized Bloomberg's defense of the law while mayor, and said gun owners cannot rely on his word, or the word of New York City lawyers, for their protection.
"The law in question was on the books and enforced while Bloomberg was mayor," she told the Washington Free Beacon. "New York City was happy to keep it on the books until SCOTUS agreed to review it and then the city and state quickly amended the law. In their remarks yesterday, city lawyers admitted the law was unconstitutional. Now, after decades of trying to entrap innocent and law-abiding gun owners, Bloomberg wants gun owners to believe that they will stand by them and protect them? It is just and reasonable for gun owners to seek more substantive protections."
The Bloomberg campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Bloomberg's apparent flip-flop came after gun-control groups he has funded quietly lobbied New York state to pass a law negating the city regulation in order to moot the alleged "trojan horse" lawsuit. The groups refused to comment to the Free Beacon on their lobbying, which records show cost $21,275, but nearly every legislator the groups contacted voted to loosen travel restrictions.
Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, told the Free Beacon at the time that gun-control groups' efforts were "hypocritical," because they only began lobbying for change once the Supreme Court accepted his group's challenge to the city's restrictions. While the lobbying groups did not speak out publicly, other gun-control activists openly made the same argument as Bloomberg, contending that New York should undo the law to prevent the Supreme Court from hearing it and potentially expanding Second Amendment protections.
In mid-November, Bloomberg also made an about-face on "stop and frisk" policing measures, saying that he was "wrong" to pursue a policy that he once vocally supported.