By Steve Peoples, The Associated Press
AURORA — Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg unveiled a gun control policy on Thursday just steps from the site of one of Colorado’s worst mass shootings, calling for a ban on all assault weapons, mandatory permits for gun purchasers and a new position in the White House to coordinate gun violence prevention.
“I’ve been all in on the fight against gun violence for 15 years, and I’m just getting started,” Bloomberg declared. “As president, I will work to end the gun violence epidemic once and for all.”
Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, entered the Democratic presidential primary less than two weeks ago. Gun violence has quickly emerged as a core issue for his presidential bid, as it has been for his political and philanthropic efforts for much of the last decade.
Bloomberg is well known to gun control advocates in Colorado and across the country, where he’s funneled tens of millions of dollars from his personal fortune to help like-minded candidates while creating and supporting gun control groups such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action.
In the Centennial State, he has poured in funds to support candidates facing recall because of their backing of gun legislation. He also spent heavily to support the 2018 Colorado gubernatorial campaign of former state Sen. Mike Johnston, a Denver Democrat.
Bloomberg said he was glad to be in Colorado — “it’s a wonderful state” — but said he is unsure of his chances of winning the state’s presidential primary contest next year. “That, I have no idea,” he said.
MORE: Colorado voters will be able to cast their presidential primary ballots on the same day as New Hampshire’s
Also on Thursday, Bloomberg filed with Colorado’s Secretary of State to secure his spot on the state’s 2020 presidential primary ballot. The primary will be on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday.
Despite his dedication to the issue, the former Republican is viewed skeptically by many Democratic primary voters, who look at his ties to Wall Street and vast personal wealth with suspicion. Democratic rivals including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in recent days have accused him of trying to buy the election.
At the same time, Bloomberg is pounding the local airwaves in all 50 states with television ads highlighting his work on issues on gun violence and climate change while casting himself as best positioned to defeat Trump next fall. After spending roughly $40 million on an ad campaign over the first week or so of his campaign, he began running a second ad campaign backed by tens of millions of dollars more on Wednesday.
In Colorado, his television ad spending has reached more than $650,000.
The 77-year-old New Yorker outlined his plan to combat gun violence before an invitation-only audience of about 40 victims of gun violence and gun control activists at a Christian center, near the movie theater in Aurora where a gunman killed 12 people and wounded nearly 60 others in 2012. The speaking lineup included Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed in the attack.
Sullivan formally endorsed Bloomberg while introducing him Thursday.
“I have witnessed the actions Mike has taken since Alex was murdered,” Sullivan said, insisting that victims of gun violence would have an ally in the White House should Bloomberg win the election.
The policies Bloomberg outlined Thursday largely mirror those he fought for on the state and federal levels in recent years, though it’s the first time he’s released his specific prescription for gun violence as a presidential candidate. T hey are ambitious and would almost certainly face fierce resistance from the NRA and Republicans in Congress, but they are not dramatically different from those of his Democratic rivals.
The difference, Bloomberg said Thursday, is his proven commitment to the issue.
“I promise you I will never back down from this fight,” he said. “That’s the kind of president this country needs and you deserve.”
Among the highlights, Bloomberg’s plan would:
— Reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
— Require every gun buyer to obtain a permit before making a purchase.
— Require point-of-sale background checks on all gun purchases while closing the gun show loophole.
— Institute a new age limit of 21 for those wishing to buy handguns, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
— Require a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for all gun purchases.
— Institute a federal “red flag” law to deny permits to “troubled people who pose a danger to themselves or others.”
— Institute a temporary ban on gun possession for those convicted of assault or other violent misdemeanors.
— Ban all guns in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, except for law enforcement.
— Reverse the law that gives gun makers and gun dealers immunity from lawsuits.
— Create the position of White House gun coordinator “to mobilize the public to fight gun violence and launch an inter-agency hub to fight gun violence.”
Bloomberg wasn’t the only one to make presidential campaign news in Colorado on Thursday.
Fellow Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced Thursday she has hired a state director in Colorado and will open multiple offices in the state. It’s the latest move by the Massachusetts senator in a Western state that’s part of the Super Tuesday contests in March.
Warren said PaaWee Rivera, who worked on her 2018 Senate campaign in Massachusetts, will run her Colorado operation. Warren plans to open offices in Denver, Boulder and elsewhere
In 2016, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won Colorado’s caucus over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But the caucus system has been replaced by an open primary in which voters unaffiliated with either party can also cast ballots.
MORE: Why winning the Democratic primary in Colorado won’t be easy for Bernie Sanders this time around
Sanders is the only other 2020 hopeful with state staff in Colorado right now, and on Thursday his campaign announced it had hired a second staffer to serve as field director here.
Colorado Sun staff writer Jesse Paul contributed to this report.