Mayor Michael Bloomberg is relying on Mark Glaze to help him reform this country's gun laws.
Glaze, who is gay, is a Coloradan from Parlin and the son of a licensed gun dealer who sold pistols out of a cabinet in the family's general store. He is also a principal at the Raben Group, a progressive lobbying firm in Washington D.C. and the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 750 mayors led by the New York City mayor and by Boston Mayor Tom Menino.
Glaze spoke with The Advocate on an evening when his group had scored a major victory in Michigan, where the state senate opted against eliminating a law that requires people buying handguns from unlicensed sellers to first pass a background check. Glaze discusses the latest horrific incident of gun violence, Bloomberg's group, and whether LGBT people are more likely to pick one side over another in this debate.
The Advocate: So here we are after another shooting, this time in Oregon. What's your initial reaction?
Mark Glaze: We always think about the families first. We work with hundreds of gun violence survivors and their families, and the truth is they never get over it. That some of them move on by helping us try to get some common sense into our gun laws is kind of awe inspiring to me. But they know that many of the 34 Americans who are murdered with guns every day didn't have to die. And almost everyone basically agrees on how to reform the laws, including NRA members.
What is Mayors Against Illegal Guns?
In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg hosted 15 mayors at Gracie Mansion in New York who were basically fed up. They respect the Second Amendment, and they also work hard to keep guns out of the wrong hands. They know these concepts are totally consistent, but they aren't getting any help from Washington. When a police officer gets shot on the beat, they're the ones who get the call and are held accountable. Members of Congress don't get those calls, so they think about it more ideologically, less pragmatically. Flash forward to today and we have 750 mayors from all over the country who are telling Washington "you need to act. You can respect the Second Amendment and keep illegal guns off the streets at the same time." Because they do it every day. But Washington needs to do its part.
How long have you represented them?
I started lobbying Congress for the group about four years ago and became director just after the Tuscon mass shooting. Trial by fire. Look, one of the reasons I took the job was in part because my dad was a licensed gun dealer in Colorado, and I get the gun culture — and I suppose was a part of it. I get that they're not monolithic; they come in all shapes and sizes. But most are like my dad, they work hard not to sell to bad guys, they think everyone should get a background check, and they don't think the black helicopters are waiting for the moment to take away their guns.
Where does gun control typically fall in progressive politics? Is it an issue that clearly falls along any lines in terms of a person's sexuality?
Some Democrats in swing districts shy away from gun issues because this mythology has developed that the NRA will unseat you. In November, the NRA spent more than $100,000 in seven Senate races. Six of their candidates lost. They spent $12 million trying to defeat the president, but there he is, sitting in the Oval Office. I think Democrats are beginning to understand that if they do the right thing on the merits, the politics will take care of themselves.
The issue doesn't break along any lines. The little secret lurking behind this gun debate is that there's been a broad and durable consensus for a generation. People respect the Second Amendment and also believe in protecting the public from dangerous people with guns; they go hand-in-hand. Republican pollster Frank Luntz surveyed NRA members and found 74% of them believe that if you want to buy a gun, you should be able to pass a criminal background check; 90% of the people in my home state of Colorado want that too.
Arguably, two of the most horrific incidents of suburban gun violence occurred in Columbine and Aurora, both in Colorado. Having grown up there, do you think there's something endemic to the state that engendered those two incidents?
I really don't. Thirty four American are murdered with guns every day, everywhere. Actually, Colorado gave us one pretty good model for making progress. The Columbine killers got their guns by getting someone else to buy them at a gun show. After the shooting, legislators introduced a bill to require people who buy guns at gun shows to pass a background check, no matter who they buy them from. The legislature refused to act on it, so the people went around them, put it on the ballot and 70% of Coloradans made it the law. That's what Colorado is to me, not Columbine or Aurora.