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Becky Bowers
By Becky Bowers March 26, 2013

Wayne LaPierre: Michael Bloomberg says ‘we can only have three bullets’ and ‘the NRA wants firearms with nukes’

Who makes "ridiculous" claims about guns?

The other side, of course.

National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre appeared on Meet the Press on March 24, 2013, after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"It’s insane the stuff he says," LaPierre said of Bloomberg, a co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns who’s spending millions on ads in support of stricter gun controls.

"We have people all over, millions of people, sending us $5, $10, $15, $20 checks saying stand up to this guy that says we can only have three bullets, which is what he said," LaPierre told host David Gregory. "Stand up to this guy who says ridiculous things like the NRA wants firearms with nukes on them."

We wondered: Did Bloomberg say "we can only have three bullets" and "the NRA wants firearms with nukes on them"?

‘Three bullets’

We asked Bloomberg’s office and the NRA about LaPierre’s comments, and searched news databases and the Web.

We didn’t find evidence that Bloomberg said "we can only have three bullets."

He publicly endorses a ban on "military-style assault weapons" and "high-capacity ammunition magazines," such as in a Feb. 11, 2013 letter to lawmakers from Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Generally, that’s meant opposition to magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, the target of legislation making its way through Congress.

Other folks in favor of stricter gun control have argued that magazines with more than three rounds ought to be banned, such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., in a December interview on MSNBC.

Has Bloomberg? Close. But not quite.

The NRA pointed us to a Nightline interview on Dec. 20, 2012, in which the mayor says if you need more than three bullets, you’re a lousy shot.

Anchor Cynthia McFadden asked him about the challenge of defining an "assault weapon."

"Well, if it can fire a lot of bullets very quickly, that's a good place to start, okay, and then you can argue about what a lot is," Bloomberg said.

McFadden starts to interject, and the mayor continues:

"Let's pick it. Let's say three. If you haven't hit the deer with three shots, you're a pretty lousy shot. The deer deserves to get away. Let's get serious here."

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Later, he says:

"If it's 30 bullets, or 20 bullets or 10 bullets before you run out, I would suggest, God wants that deer to live."

McFadden says: "But according to gun owners, what you've just described would ban most guns used by hunters today."

Bloomberg: "If that's what they're using, for God sakes, why aren't they using dynamite? Just make it easier. I mean, what's the sport?"

Did that interview constitute a proposal to ban more than three bullets?

Not according to Bloomberg’s spokesman, John McCarthy, who shared the Bloomberg speech and letter supporting legislation to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

"Everything we have proposed has been very public. We have never proposed that," McCarthy said.  "We have been very clear about what we have wanted and have seven years' worth of public advocacy, reports, press releases and more. We have never called for that, nor did he in that interview."

‘Firearms with nukes’

Did Bloomberg say "the NRA wants firearms with nukes on them"?


He said the group would support the right to own them.

Here’s what he told MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski on Dec. 18, 2012’s Morning Joe:

"The U.S. Army has a rifle — they call it a rifle. I would call it a cannon. It’s attached to the front of a tank or a moving vehicle," Bloomberg said. "It shoots a nuclear warhead. The NRA would say, ‘Oh, that’s a gun. And people have a right to have that.’ "

(We searched for a sign the NRA would indeed say such a thing. At the moment, the group pokes fun at the idea. Meanwhile, it once blessed a ban on fully automatic machine guns, much less ones with nuclear warheads. Still, soon afterward it said it supported "the right of law-abiding individuals to choose to own any firearm, including automatic firearms.")

Why did Bloomberg think the NRA would support a nuclear-armed populace?

"The NRA used to support background checks, and now they don't," McCarthy said. "The mayor was using a rhetorical device to point out that if you oppose every regulation, you will allow anything."

Our ruling

LaPierre claimed that Bloomberg has said "we can only have three bullets" and "the NRA wants firearms with nukes on them." He’s partially right.

Bloomberg suggested on MSNBC that the NRA would support the right to carry a cannon firing nuclear warheads — but his point was that the organization always supports gun rights, not that it was actively promoting nuclear weapons. And while he hasn’t formally proposed a three-bullet maximum, 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."

LaPierre hits the target, but it’s no bull’s-eye. We rate his claim Half True.

Our Sources

NBC News Transcripts on Meet the Press, "March 24: Michael Bloomberg, Wayne LaPierre, David Boies, Richard Engel, Ralph Reed, Hilary Rosen, E.J. Dionne, David Brooks," March 24, 2013

Email interview with John Frazer, director, NRA-ILA Research and Information Division, March 25, 2013

Email interview with John McCarthy, New York City Office of the Mayor, March 25, 2013

Mediaite, "Bloomberg Making Sense: The NRA Would Defend Your Right To Own A Nuclear Cannon," Dec. 18, 2012

CQ Transcriptions, "MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, I-NEW YORK CITY, IS INTERVIEWED ON MSNBC'S ‘MORNING JOE,’" Dec. 18, 2012, via Nexis (subscription only)

ABC News, "Bloomberg Blasts NRA: 'Connecticut Is Because of Some of Their Actions,'" Dec. 20, 2012

ABC News Transcript, "SHOW: NIGHTLINE 11:45 PM EST - SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS; DEMAND A PLAN," Dec. 21, 2012, via Nexis (subscription only)

New York Times, "N.R.A. Chief Says He Will Counter Bloomberg’s Gun Control Campaign," March 24, 2013

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, "Statement of Principles," accessed March 25, 2013


NRA-ILA, "Feinstein Goes For Broke With New Gun-Ban Bill," Dec. 27, 2012

Denver Post, "Mother of theater shooting victim calling for tougher gun laws," Jan. 20, 2013

National Journal, "4 Problems Obama Will Face In Gun Control Push," Jan. 15, 2013

CQ Newsmaker Transcripts, "Rep. Nadler Interviewed on MSNBC," Dec. 19, 2012 (subscription only)

Dianne Feinstein, "Stopping the spread of deadly assault weapons," accessed March 25, 2013

Huffington Post, "The NRA's Flip-Flop on Machine Guns," Feb. 22, 2013

NPR's It's All Politics, "The Decades-Old Gun Ban That's Still On The Books," Jan. 16, 2013

National Journal, "The Evolution of the NRA's Defense of Guns," Dec. 21, 2012

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More by Becky Bowers

Wayne LaPierre: Michael Bloomberg says ‘we can only have three bullets’ and ‘the NRA wants firearms with nukes’

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