"I think there's a large wave [of gun-control advocacy] building, and I think the White House is trying to have it all sort of come in the same direction," says Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at the State University of New York in Cortland and the author of "The Politics of Gun Control." "You have the Bloomberg people, the [James] Brady people, now Giffords, and there's a sense among the political leadership in Washington that they have a moment to really get stuff done and to bring all these groups to bear in a consistent way. This is not a normal moment; it's not normal politics."
The emergence of Mr. Bloomberg, a former Republican, as well as Giffords, a centrist Democrat who owns weapons for self-protection, and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, not only gives gun-control advocates recognizable and heroic faces, but it also is beginning to coalesce a largely fractious movement that has had only a lean grass-roots constituency.
"One of the things that the gun-control movement has always faced is an abundance of underfunded groups that don't work together well," says Kristin Goss, a political scientist at Duke University and author of "Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America." That, she says, may now be changing.
Bloomberg and Giffords also help to change the image of the gun-control movement from one of "gun grabbers" to one of centrist Americans simply looking for common-sense change, perhaps in the form of an assault weapons ban, bans on large ammunition clips, or the creation of a national gun registry.