Mayor drops out of Bloomberg’s anti-gun coalition, says ‘focus should not be against law-abiding citizens’

Patrick Howley | Political Reporter

An independent Illinois mayor is leaving New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun coalition because he said the group strayed from its original mission and became too focused on pushing for an assault-weapons ban.

“I’ve dropped out of a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG),” Rockford, Illinois mayor Larry Morrissey said at a Rockford Tea Party town hall Saturday as the crowd burst into applause. “The reason why I joined the group in the first place is because I took the name for what it said. Against ‘Illegal’ guns.”

“The challenge that we see day in and day out in the city of Rockford is not dealing primarily with assault weapons or machine guns, automatic weapons. It’s dealing with a typical handgun. All of those typical weapons are usually in the hands of people who are prohibited from having them,” Morrissey said.

“As the original mission swayed, that’s when I decided that it was no longer in line with my beliefs. …So that’s why I dropped out,” Morrissey explained. “The focus should not be against law-abiding citizens. We should be focusing our enforcement on folks who have no right to carry a gun, concealed or otherwise.”

Morrissey also said that he supports concealed carry and plans to apply for a permit when the opportunity becomes available to him in Illinois.

“Personally as well, I’ve had three threats that I’ve had to deal with since I got elected,” he said. “None of which turned out to be any major event, but, you know, once you get a death threat and you realize even with the support of the Rockford Police Department, I just know with myself, especially now with a very young family, I don’t want to put my family’s life at risk, I don’t want to put my own life at risk, in a way that I could otherwise prevent. If I can protect myself, I’m going to do it.”

Morrissey’s departure from MAIG comes as the tax-exempt nonprofit group faces criticism for employing public New York City Hall workers to manage its website, and for hosting its site on official city government servers.

Bloomberg’s coalition, which holds the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization” status that many tea party groups were harassed by the IRS for applying for, has been leading the charge in pushing for an assault-weapons ban and other new gun control measures in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Connecticut last December.

Bloomberg’s coalition recently targeted Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake with an attack ad featuring the mother of an Aurora theater shooting victim, and New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte with a similar negative ad in her home state. MAIG also hammered Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey with negative ads until he signed on to co-sponsor a bill calling for expanded background checks. The group then put out an ad praising Toomey.

As The Daily Caller reported, MAIG sent 27-year old activist Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook elementary school principal Dawn Hochsprung, to a town hall meeting conducted by Ayotte. At the event, Lafferty asked a confrontational question and then stormed out of the event when Ayotte responded that mental health initiatives, not gun control measures, are the proper solutions to episodes of mass violence. Lafferty’s stunt earned wide media coverage from outlets including NBC News and the Huffington Post, and was praised by Chris Matthews on MSNBC.

Bloomberg, a billionaire Barack Obama supporter, personally donated the vast majority of the money raised by the coalition, according to an August 2012 disclosure made in compliance with Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that “social welfare organizations” must disclose their donors if they run ads mentioning specific candidates.

Bloomberg made 68 small contributions to his own group totaling approximately $3.1 million between January 2011 and July 2012. Los Angeles-based billionaire and major Democratic donor Eli Broad also donated $250,000 on August 15, 2011. Only five other individuals had contributed to the coalition by the time of the organization’s last disclosure in 2012, with their combined donations totaling less than $11,000.

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