For decades, the National Rifle Association was the one holding the megaphone. Leaders David Keene and Wayne LaPierre voiced vigorous defenses of the Second Amendment and rallied members to resist new gun laws, often with great success.
Now, they have an opponent. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wields the power of public office and his own personal fortune, and he’s using both to push for legislation that puts new limits on firearms.
This week the battle came to NBC’s Meet the Press. Bloomberg and LaPierre never came face to face on the set, but the two men had plenty of sharp words about each other.
LaPierre said Bloomberg was trying to "buy America" by pouring $12 million of his own money into gun-control advocacy.Bloomberg said he has an obligation to make sure the NRA isn’t the only voice in the debate.
Both made factual claims too, which got the needle buzzing on the Truth-O-Meter. Here’s a tally:
Bloomberg accused LaPierre of flip-flopping on the primary policy change being considered by Congress: expanded background checks on gun purchases.
"If you go back to 1999, Wayne LaPierre testified on behalf of the NRA that background checks were appropriate and should be done," Bloomberg told host David Gregory.
We looked back and found that in an appearance before a Senate subcommittee in the wake of the Columbine High School shooting, LaPierre said, "We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone."
We rated Bloomberg’s claim True.
But Bloomberg also cited a statistic often heard from advocates of tighter gun laws: that background checks "don't apply to 40 percent of the gun sales today."
PolitiFact has examined that statistic before. It comes from a scholarly study conducted 16 years ago, but there’s no new evidence to indicate if the figure is still true today. What’s more, it includes gun transactions such as fathers passing on guns to their sons -- not just gun show purchases where no background check is required. We rated the 40 percent claim Half True.
Bloomberg echoed another statement that writers at PolitiFact Georgia looked into recently. Bloomberg said there are "something like 58,000 gun dealers across this country, three times the number of McDonald's stores." PolitiFact Georgia dug up the numbers for a similar claim and found there were 14,098 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States as of 2011, and between 51,000 and 58,000 gun shops. But those shops include retailers such as Wal-Mart, not just businesses primarily selling firearms. Their rating: Mostly True.
Finally, we checked out this claim from LaPierre: that Bloomberg said "we can only have three bullets" and that "the NRA wants firearms with nukes on them."
Bloomberg hasn’t actually proposed a three-bullet maximum, but he does support banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and has said anyone who needs more than three is "a pretty lousy shot." And he suggested on MSNBC that the NRA would support a right to carry a cannon firing nuclear warheads.
We rated LaPierre’s statement Half True.
See related fact-checks.