NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a public face of gun control for years, but he’s in a new, unsought spotlight after ricin-laced letters were sent to him and a group he helps lead.
The billionaire hasn’t shied from using his political post and his personal fortune to push for gun control well beyond the city limits, garnering both plaudits and complaints that he’s overreaching.
The poisoned letters to Bloomberg and the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns essentially threatened that “anyone who comes for my guns will be shot in the face,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday, shortly before the Secret Service disclosed that a similar missive was sent to President Barack Obama.
Bloomberg didn’t comment on the case Thursday, but he said Wednesday he didn’t feel angry, threatened — or inclined to back down.
“We’re not going to walk away from those efforts,” he said.
Fellow gun-control advocates deplored the letters, which arrived after Bloomberg played a prominent role in a now-stalled push for new firearms laws in response to the December school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“The work Mayor Bloomberg does is vitally important to our cause, and our thoughts are with them this week,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement Thursday. He emphasized that the organization doesn’t think the letter episode reflects the mass of Americans engaged in the issue.
Thanks to his office and pocketbook, Bloomberg has become a uniquely influential figure in the gun debate.
Vice President Joe Biden said in March that “there has been no support that has been more consequential” than Bloomberg’s in the recent, White House-fueled press for new gun restrictions. And the National Rifle Association has made clear it sees Bloomberg as a leading foe, caricaturing him as an octopus on the cover of its magazine in 2007 and branding him an “evangelist for the nanny state.”