During the past couple of decades, as their wretched little cause slowly lost ground, it dawned on the more adroit of America’s gun-control outfits that they might profit from the invention of a new language to market their appeals. Thus it was that we moved away from a debate in which the Left was content to be represented by outfits named “Handgun Control Inc.” and in which restrictionists advocated brazenly for “gun control” and even “gun bans,” and moved toward a debate in which “Handgun Control Inc.” became the “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,” the term “gun control” was replaced in the political literature by the fraudulent “gun safety,” and skeptics were assured that the reformers’ goal was merely the institution of “sensible laws” based on the malleable notion of “common sense.”
Chief among this new school of gun-control organizations was Michael Bloomberg’s quixotic gang Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which, if the friendly New York Daily News’s Dan Friedman is to be believed, has emerged “since the Newtown shooting” as “the country’s leading gun-control group.” With his parade of absurd mayoral edicts, Bloomberg has shown himself to be a deeply misguided man possessed of an insatiable need to intrude upon the lives of those over whom he rules, and incapable of hiding his rank disdain for all those who have the temerity to dissent from his worldview. But he is by no means stupid. Mayors Against Illegal Guns boasts what may well be the Platonic ideal of a neutral-sounding, focus-grouped name; and, for most of its eight-year run, it has been assiduously careful to appear modest. (Who, after all, isn’t against “illegal guns”?) Consequently, it should have come as no surprise that when the likes of Eleanor Clift mistakenly predicted that “the culture of guns is beginning to go through a transformation in this country,” it was on Bloomberg’s group that she and other progressives pinned their hopes.
Still, slippery language and false moderation are dangerously unreliable rhetorical tools; they work only if the listeners fail to notice that they are being played. After six months of the increasingly hysterical behavior that has marked MAIG’s first forays, its membership appears to be cottoning on to the ruse. The mayor of Rockford, Ill., Lawrence Morrissey, who was for a brief time on board with Bloomberg’s stated agenda, put his disillusionment well. “The reason that I joined the group in the first place,” he explained contritely at a town-hall meeting on June 22 this year, “is because I took the name for what it said — against ‘illegal’ guns.” But “as the original mission swayed,” Morrissey continued, he decided that “it was no longer in line with my beliefs.” His audience applauded this revelation.
Morrissey is one of 50 or so mayors who have left Bloomberg’s group since February this year. “I was never an active member,” Sioux City mayor Bob Scott nervously made clear while justifying his decision to pull out earlier this year. “They’re not just against illegal guns, they’re against all guns.” In July, the mayor of Nashua, N.H., Donnalee Lozeau, struck a similar note, revealing in an interview with the Manchester Union Leader that she had scolded Bloomberg for going after Senator Kelly Ayotte: “You’re Mayors Against Illegal Guns; you’re not Mayors for Gun Control!”