Governor Chris Christie in recent weeks has received shouts and calls from both sides of the argument over gun violence reform. There have been rallies featuring some individuals from New Jersey as well as others from outside the state calling for Christie to pass bills that have been forwarded to him from the State Legislature and other measures needed after recent tragedies around the country. Among those calling on Christie is the group Americans for Responsible Solutions, which was co-founded by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Giffords herself was a victim of gun violence a couple years ago. At the same time, there have been others including a conservative group from New Hampshire pressuring Christie to be a strong advocate for the 2nd Amendment and not bend regardless of pressure to sign various legislative packages.
Similarly to how Christie saw feedback from both sides of the gun violence reform argument when it was just on the topic of potential measures, Christie would execute decisions that would both please and upset both sides.
First, Christie recently signed ten gun bills that range from measures aimed at stiffening penalties for the unlawful possession and smuggling of firearms to requiring the state submit mental health records to the federal government. However, in true form when it comes to Christie's approach to this debate; he decided to leave five other bills that were a bit more controversial on his desk unsigned. One such measure left unsigned would overhaul how the state issues firearm permits and require buyers to show they have completed a safety training course. While a couple others would have banned .50 caliber rifles to non-military personnel and required law enforcement agencies to report to federal databases information on guns that are illegal, used in crimes, lost, stolen, or discarded.
While not ideal for many who would like to see Christie take more action reflective of what the State Legislature has worked on this year, groups like New Jerseyans for Safety from Gun Violence were at least content with Christie taking some action.
As the group would state,
Christie’s signature on the 10 measures is certainly a step in the right direction. But make no mistake about it, it is only a step...he must complete the task before him and sign the remaining gun violence prevention bills on his desk.
Overall, the package mostly focused on gun trafficking and upping penalties for offenses. The package included the following bills: S-1279/A-4179, SCS for S-2430/ACS for A-3690, S-2468/A-4180, S-2719/ACS for A-3953/3854, S-2720/A-4181, S-2804/A-4152, A-3687/S-2485, A-3717/SCS for S-2492, A-3788/S-2552, and A-3796/S-2722.
About a week after signing those ten bills into law, Christie would finally respond on the more controversial measures. Whether it was personal beliefs or kowtowing to the GOP, but Christie would either veto or tweak and send back to Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) three of them led by legislation that would have banned the .50 caliber rifle.
As Christie's office would outline on the .50 caliber rifle bill,
The bill passed by the legislature seeks to ban a firearm that has reportedly never been used in a crime in New Jersey. It imposes criminal liabilities on all current owners of these firearms, including those who believed that they had properly registered their guns with law enforcement. This bill, however, goes well beyond that recommendation and would instead criminalize the ownership of a whole class of firearms that are technically capable of firing any ammunition of 50 caliber or greater.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) would fire back at Christie's decision by voicing,
Banning these battlefield-style weapons was designed to keep these highly destructive firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals and terrorists. Weaponry designed for the battlefield, that serves no legitimate civilian use, should not be landing on our streets. Instead the governor has shunned this notion and bowed to the pressure of right wing conservatives. The governor's vetoes today demonstrate a failure in leadership. Instead of doing what's right for New Jersey, he bowed to the pressures of his political party.
Another bill that was issued a veto was one that would have required the state and law enforcement officials to report firearms information into a database.
As Christie would exclaim,
Signing this bill with this reporting requirement, therefore, would unnecessarily place New Jersey into conflict with the superseding requirements of federal law, leading to wasteful litigation, inconsistent enforcement, and widespread uncertainty among the men and women who serve each day to protect all New Jerseyans from violence. Without question, mandating the submission of crime gun and abandoned gun information is a laudable program that enhances efforts to combat gun trafficking. Equally clear is the need to make sure that our laws work in harmony with the requirements of federal standards. To ensure that result, I recommend this slight modification to this bill.
He would further add,
The Legislature instead embarked on a different course. Rather than considering the dozens of common-sense policies I proposed, fifteen bills were passed. Rather than examining the issue of violence comprehensively as I recommended, the Legislature focused solely on gun control. And rather than a careful and balanced approach to that subject, a few ideas were hurriedly designed and swiftly considered. Although disappointed by this approach to violence pursued by the Legislature, I pledged to consider each bill on the merits.
Similarly to Oliver, Sweeney also was not happy with Christie's decision. As Sweeney would utter,
While I and my staff are still in the process of reviewing the CV (conditional veto), this (omnibus) bill would have served as a model for the nation. It was a well crafted piece of legislation that took input from all sides. Frankly, it is just plain common sense to have the kinds of checks and technological implementation that this bill proposed. The legislation would in no way have denied a law abiding citizen from owning a firearm, but would have taken appropriate measures to prevent those who shouldn't have a gun from getting one. The people of this state have demanded the kinds of basic, common sense gun reforms this legislation would have accomplished. Instant background checks, including a system that incorporates various mental health checks, and trying to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands are not controversial issues. They are simply a matter of doing what is right and logical.
Just like before Christie passes some legislation and veto other pieces of legislation, advocates for changes in the Garden State went back to the Trenton to protest Christie's vetoes. They would fault the governor for choosing politics and his party over safety and residents of the state. Sweeney and leaders in his party will look to regroup and work on what is still unaccomplished for stronger reform. Christie at one time was open to a bill like the .50 caliber rifle bill he vetoed and that is something that some like Sweeney will hang onto especially after November's election and Christie might not be in campaign mode.
For now, there are a few more bills signed into law and some progress made. At the same time, there is still an open debate caused by Christie's veto and gun violence reform will remain an open ended subject in the Garden State.