Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. REUTERS / Mike Segar

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grassroots operation to challenge the National Rifle Association and gun rights activists.

Bloomberg, a billionaire, launched the new initiative, Everytown for Gun Safety, on Wednesday as an umbrella organization for Bloomberg’s two other gun control groups, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, in the U.S.

According to a press statement, Everytown for Gun Safety will aim to build support for expanding federal and state background checks for gun buyers rather than pursuing far-reaching federal restrictions on certain types of firearms. Senate Democrats used the latter approach in April 2013 only to have their plan to ban dozens of military-style assault weapons defeated by a 40-60 vote.

“This is the beginning of a major new campaign to reduce the gun violence that plagues communities across the country,” said Bloomberg, who will chair the new group. “There is no question that more needs to be done to tackle this deadly problem.”

When asked to comment on Bloomberg's new plan, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said, “See you in Indianapolis next week. We’ll have a lot more to say then.”

The NRA, the nation's biggest and most influential gun lobby, will host its annual convention April 25-27 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Ind., bringing guns, celebrities and political rock stars together under one roof.

Bloomberg’s $50 million contribution more than doubles the $20 million that the NRA spent each time it tried to influence the last two presidential elections.

It’s not the first time that Bloomberg, an independent, has pumped millions into gun control campaigns. However, for all his largesse, he has achieved little.

In 2013, Bloomberg spent $12 million of his own money on television ad campaigns to pressure senators to move on legislation that would have required tougher background checks than existing ones. Since then, the issue has stalled in Congress. However, the 2012 defeat of gun rights advocate Rep. Joe Baca, a democrat, in California's 35th Congressional District, was one of Bloomberg's few victories. The former mayor gave nearly $10 million to his own super PAC, Independence USA, which spent $3 million to oust the congressman, effectively sending a message to the NRA that Bloomberg intends to be a significant player in the nation's heated gun control debate.

Now, Bloomberg is taking a page from the NRA’s playbook: He’s targeting female voters, and mothers in particular, to build support, and he’s planning to invest in more than a dozen field operations to mobilize single-issue voters in states where universal background checks and other gun control laws have been successful in reducing crime, popular or controversial. The plan is to throw money behind candidates who support “legislation that will save lives,” and it aims to do political harm to candidates who oppose such legislation.

“Moms need to know that when they drop their kids off at school, they’re learning math and science, not how to duck and cover from gunfire,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said. “Everytown for Gun Safety will harness the grassroots power of moms and the many other Americans who want to protect their families and communities from gun violence.”

Watts spoke in reference to the December 2012 mass shooting in which troubled 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., immediately after killing his mother in her own home. Lanza took his own life in the massacre.