Even after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed gun control legislation and refused to meet with parents of children who died in the Sandy Hook massacre, those families still want to meet with the Republican to make their views known.
Members of the group Sandy Hook Promise traveled from Connecticut to Christie’s office last week to deliver a petition with 55,000 signatures asking him to sign a bill – passed by both houses of the State Legislature – to reduce magazine capacity from 15 rounds to 10 rounds. The group’s members said they’d been asking for a meeting with Christie since May 22 but were repeatedly told he wasn’t available.
About an hour after leaving the State House and heading back to the train station, the group found out Christie had vetoed the bill.
The veto is the latest indication that Christie, despite the ongoing controversy over Bridgegate in his state, still may pursue the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. GOP primary voters are typically unwavering in their support of gun rights, and Christie, who is considered one of the more moderate GOP hopefuls, has been skewered by the right for his stance on guns in the past.
In 2009, Christie told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that New Jersey has a “handgun problem.” In 1995, when running for state general assembly, he distributed flyers calling his opponents “crazy” for supporting the repeal of an assault rifle ban.
Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University, said the easy choice for Christie if he weren’t considering a presidential run would have been to pass the gun control bill. “So why would someone who is pretty serious about crime issues veto the measure? You don’t want to alienate the NRA and gun activists in [early voting states of] New Hampshire and Iowa,” she said.
Mark Barden, a leader of the Sandy Hook group, lost his 7-year-old son Daniel in the December 2012 shootings where the gunman used 30-round magazines. Barden told msnbc that Christie “should have given us the courtesy” of meeting with the group and letting members know beforehand that he planned to veto the legislation. Still, Barden said he wants to meet with Christie.
“I am 100% interested in having a conversation and seeing if we can have that sit down and find a way forward,” Barden said.
When asked if Christie would be willing to meet with the Sandy Hook families even after the veto, a spokesman did not say one way or another but referred to Christie’s remarks at a press conference last week where he explained his decision.
“The fact of the matter is, the idea of going from 15 [rounds] to 10 just makes no sense to me at all as a way to control violence,” Christie had argued. The governor added that he had already signed the veto by the time the family members had arrived in Trenton. Meeting with them, he argued, would have been “hypocritical.”
“I understand their argument. I’ve heard their argument. I don’t agree with their argument. We have a fundamental disagreement about the effectiveness of what they are advocating for,” Christie said. In an earlier statement, the governor said “I will not support such a trivial approach to the sanctity of human life, because this is not governing.”
Barden said he “felt attacked” by Christie’s statement. Nicole Hockely, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook, told The New York Times that Christie’s decision “felt like a slap in the face.”
Barden did note that the group met Christie in July 2013 but it was before gun control legislation was seriously being considered. He described that meeting as “positive.”
After it was clear that Christie wasn’t likely to sit down with them in person this summer, Sandy Hook Promise asked Christie’s office if he would be willing to have a five minute phone call with them instead. That request, Barden said, was ignored.
Joe Scarborough, host of msnbc’s “Morning Joe” and a former Republican congressman, also criticized Christie this week for not meeting with the Sandy Hook families. Scarborough said it “was painful watching Chris Christie talking about, somehow limiting clips to 10 bullets means that you don’t care about the 10 children that will be killed by those bullets? That is just one of the stupidest arguments I think I have ever heard.”