Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Bloomberg's out-of-order remarks got one thing right

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
July 26, 2012 -- Updated 1422 GMT (2222 HKT)
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made an off-the-cuff remark about the dangers that police face due to a lack of gun control.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made an off-the-cuff remark about the dangers that police face due to a lack of gun control.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police officers should go on strike for better gun control
  • Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Mayor was wrong about strike, but right about dangers police face
  • Police face gun lobby, cowardly politicians, pop culture that glorifies violence, he says
  • Elected officials and police unions should act to keep police safe, Navarrette says

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN.com contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.

(CNN) -- When an elected official whose heart seems to be in the right place offers a courageous perspective on an important subject, I'm inclined to try to find some good in it.

But in the case of Michael Bloomberg's off-the-cuff statement that police officers across the country should threaten to go on strike until citizens pressure lawmakers to pass more gun control laws, the search was arduous.

After a shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that killed 12 people and wounded 58 others, Bloomberg said this on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight": "I don't understand why the police officers across this country don't stand up collectively and say we're going to go on strike. We're not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what's required to keep us safe."

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Oh brother. Apparently, Bloomberg forgot a couple of things. Like the fact that, in New York, a law specifically prohibits police officers from putting public safety at risk by going on strike. Or that pulling police officers off the streets would likely lead to more gun violence, not less. Or that while a private citizen can say something like that, the mayor of America's largest city needs to choose his words more responsibly.

The comments were out of line, but they were not out of character for the New York mayor. Bloomberg is a co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national organization of 600 mayors who support stronger gun laws, and a frequent critic of the National Rifle Association.

Still, the day after his remarks, Bloomberg tried to head off a public relations headache by clarifying his statement. He insisted he "didn't literally mean" that police ought to go on strike and, in any case, he knew that it was against the law.

Bloomberg on a potential police strike

That's all well and good. Yet there is one aspect of his statement from which Bloomberg should not back away. He needs to stand behind the link he made between the safety of police officers and the ready availability of firearms. When you're a police officer answering a domestic violence call, the last thing you want to find out is that someone in the house has a stockpile of weapons. And when you're in a shootout, you shouldn't have to worry about being outgunned by the bad guys.

Welcome to the new front on the gun control debate. We should hear more from elected officials and the media about how dangerous police officers' jobs have become thanks to loophole-ridden gun laws, a pop culture that glorifies gun violence and a powerful gun lobby that terrifies gutless politicians in both parties. We should also hear more from police officers themselves, whose associations usually talk more about protecting pensions than keeping their members safe from gun violence.

I don't believe that firearms are singularly responsible for mass shootings such as the one in Aurora. Still, I'd like to think that if someone purchases a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle; a 12-gauge pump shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol; 3,000 rounds of ammunition for the handgun and another 3,000 rounds for the semiautomatic rifle, law enforcement authorities might be aware of it before reading about it in the newspaper after a slaughter.

But if we're going to blame guns, we could just as easily blame dark movies and violent video games. Years of exposure to that sort of thing undoubtedly desensitize young people -- and particularly young men -- to killing and violence by blurring the line between what is real and what isn't.

It's probably significant that the shooter chose as his venue the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," the latest installment in the Batman series. Police say suspect James Holmes, who had been a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, had a Batman mask and poster in his apartment. He also colored his hair and, in conversations with police, referred to himself as "The Joker."

Don't buy that about movies? Now you know how gun enthusiasts feel. One of the frustrating things about this debate is that there is no consistency. People who object to generalizations and snap judgments about guns will accept them when they're about pop culture, and vice versa.

But this much we should be able to agree on. Police officers shouldn't go on strike. But they shouldn't have to. They swear an oath to keep the public safe. The least we can do is return the favor.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette Jr.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1737 GMT (0137 HKT)
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT