New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) launched a state-based task force in January, which was asked to come up with recommendations to reduce gun violence. And now that the panel has finished its work, Christie, in midst of his re-election campaign, has unveiled a variety of ideas.
The governor is eyeing measures that conservatives will probably like, including parental-consent requirements for minors to buy violent video games and new measures to require mental-health treatment for “potentially dangerous” people. But Christie is also backing a ban on certain kinds of firearms and now supports expanding background checks for firearm purchases in the Garden State, beyond New Jersey’s already-strict existing laws.
There are a couple of angles to keep in mind. The first is that it’s fascinating to see states take action on gun violence while federal policymaking is stymied by Republican obstructionism. Congress won’t consider popular, perfectly constitutional measures like closing the gun-show loophole, but states like Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware are stepping up to address the problem in a substantive way, and New Jersey may now be ready to take some steps of its own.
The second is purely political – Chris Christie has national ambitions and proposing even modest reforms of gun laws is a non-starter for the Republican Party’s radicalized base. As Ruby Cramer reported overnight:
“He can’t go in to Florida and say, ‘I did this gun control thing. F*** you, this is how I roll,’” said Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist based in the early primary state who worked on Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 campaign.
“It doesn’t work that way. You can’t sell Mr. Gun Control in Florida and Texas and Georgia. Primaries don’t work that way,” Wilson said, arguing that Christie’s reputation as an independent Republican maverick won’t play in states outside the Acela corridor. “Even touching gun control is disqualifying for those voters.”
In fairness, I should note that New Jersey Democrats aren’t quite sold on Christie’s plan, either, fearing it focuses too heavily on mental health and not enough on firearms, but Dems are not applying the kind of ideological litmus test that will cause the governor trouble if he tries to seek elected office beyond his blue state.
Given Christie’s support for Medicaid expansion and the far-right’s skepticism towards him in general, his support for any kind of gun reforms may well put him into the Giuliani-Huntsman category of national candidates who could credibly compete in a general election, were it not for the GOP’s base.