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Reaction To Christie Gun Law Bill Decisions

Governor Christie’s decisions on Friday afternoon about the gun law bills that remained on his desk drew swift response from Democrats, especially his veto of a ban on .50-caliber rifles.

Captain Mark Kelly, husband of former Representative Gabriele Grifford

“Gov. Christie had an easy chance to make New Jersey a safer place by expanding background checks on gun purchases, a measure that enjoys high support across the country. He and I grew up in neighboring towns and we both have a vested interest in reducing gun violence in the Garden State. But he listened to the voices of the few over the many, heeding a handful of powerful gun lobbyists instead of thousands of New Jerseyans — mothers and fathers, gun owners and non-gun owners, Republicans and Democrats. He put political ambition over public safety. His veto may cost lives.”

Governor Christie Veto Statement

Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen

As is widely known, New Jersey already has the second strictest gun laws in the United States as reported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Controlling violence in our communities,however, demands that we continue to evaluate our laws to make certain that fundamental rights and public safety are equally respected. To that end, in early 2013, the NJ SAFE Task Force set forth a comprehensive and common sense plan to strengthen New Jersey’s existing gun laws by, among other things, responsibly expanding the State’s already stringent gun laws in certain key areas.

One recommendation was to limit future sales of one specific type of firearm: the Barrett 50 caliber long-range rifle. Their proposal was a narrowly crafted, prospective limitation.

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. Indeed, this legislation would ban many of the firearms currently and lawfully used by competitive marksmen for long-range precision target shooting that, due to their size (approximately four to five feet in length) and weight (approximately 35 pounds), are not used by criminals. Tellingly, the Legislature points to no instance of this class of firearms being used by even a single criminal in New Jersey. T

The wide scope of this total ban, therefore, will not further public safety, but only interfere with lawful recreational pastimes. Moreover, while the bill purports to allow current owners of these guns to continue their possession, drafting errors in the bill actually eliminate all lawful possession of the firearms in this classification.

As a result, I am advised by the Office of the Attorney General that this bill would instead impose criminal liability on all current owners of these weapons, including those individuals who had properly registered their guns with law enforcement officials.

As Governor, and the former chief federal prosecutor for our State, I recognize that the threats to our safety and security demand vigilance, deterrence, and a tireless enforcement of our criminal laws. This bill, however, will not further our collective fight against crime, but serve only to confuse law-abiding gun owners with the threat of imprisonment for lawful recreation. I cannot approve of that result, and I encourage the Legislature to instead take immediate action on the dozens of commonsense improvements I have proposed that will truly deter criminals.

Accordingly, I herewith return Assembly Bill No. 3659.

State Senator and Gubernatorial Candidate Barbara Buono (D)

State Senator Barbara Buono
State Senator Barbara Buono (Facebook)

“It is absolutely astounding that Governor Christie has ignored the will of his constituents and vetoed legislation that is supported by an overwhelming number of New Jerseyans. With today’s vetoes, he has made his priorities clear – the wishes of right-wing, fringe Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire are more important than protecting children and families in the Garden State. His cynical decision is even more astounding when you consider that he called for banning .50 caliber rifles in April.

“He assumes that he will be leaving New Jersey for Washington, D.C. and is therefore willing to let citizens, law enforcement and legislators in the streets of Newark, Trenton and Camden deal with the consequences of today’s decision. We deserve better than broken promises and empty rhetoric that is out-of-touch with the vast majority of the state. Moreover, New Jersey has previously been a national leader on gun safety legislation. Today’s decision means that we will continue to fall behind our neighbors, who have already taken steps to eradicate gun violence.

“I will continue to fight for everyday New Jerseyans across the state and, as Governor, I promise to enact this commonsense legislation to reduce gun violence.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D)

“While I and my staff are still in the process of reviewing the CV, this 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.”

Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D)

NJ Assembly Democrats Facebook

“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.”

Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D)

“Today is a dark day for New Jersey.  With the stroke of his veto pen, Chris Christie has put New Jersey communities at risk of serious gun violence.

“New Jerseyans of all political stripes agree: we need common-sense gun violence prevention, including stronger background checks that keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals.  In rejecting stronger background checks, Chris Christie has put his national political ambitions ahead of protecting New Jersey’s families from being ripped apart by senseless gun violence.  The governor’s actions today are truly shameful.”

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D) a longtime sponsor of the bill to ban .50-caliber weapons in New Jersey

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (NJ Assembly Democrats)

“The Governor has failed to support a very common sense reform and the consequences could be grave.

“These firearms suit only military-trained snipers in war-time tactical procedures against enemy combatants. They have absolutely no legitimate sporting purpose or place in everyday society.

“Not banning them is careless and counterproductive to public safety and common sense gun violence prevention.”

Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III (D)

“This veto is puzzling, considering Gov. Christie previously expressed support for the concept. I can only assume Gov. Christie caved to the extremists who oppose any common sense gun violence prevention effort. Why else would he have pulled his support?

“Let’s make this clear – this bill would not have stepped on anybody’s rights. In a post-9/11 society, there is simply no reason for .50-caliber weapons to be available for civilian use. With the continued gun violence across the state and the fact that New Jersey possesses numerous chemical plants and rail yards vulnerable to attack by .50-caliber weapons, we had a responsibility to stop these inherently deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

“Gov. Christie failed the people of New Jersey with this partisan veto.

“It’s very unfortunate.”

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