Christie signs new gun bills into law in New Jersey

Christie signs new gun bills into law in New Jersey
Christie signs new gun bills into law in New Jersey
Associated Press

On Capitol Hill in DC, federal efforts to address gun violence have clearly struggled, as evidenced by Senate Republicans killing a bipartisan measure on background checks in the spring. But in the states, a very different kind of picture emerges.

New measures have already been approved in states like Colorado and Delaware, and “Stand Your Ground” policies – which clearly relate to gun violence – are drawing new scrutiny in Florida and Michigan.

And yesterday, reform proponents made some additional progress in New Jersey.

Gov. Chris Christie signed 10 gun bills today, ranging from measures aimed at stiffening penalties for the unlawful possession and smuggling of firearms to requiring the state to submit mental health records to the federal government. […]

The package of bills Christie signed yesterday had for the most part sailed through the Legislature with bipartisan support and without inflaming supporters or opponents of gun control.

Scott Bach, executive of the New Jersey Association of Rifle and Pistol Clubs, said although his group opposed two bills Christie signed, they were not the top priority.

The 10 measures included a new prohibition on firearm purchases from those on the federal terrorist watch list. Most of the other measures stiffened penalties on existing state gun laws.

There are, meanwhile, five other gun bills pending on the governor’s desk, which Christie has neither signed nor vetoed. Not surprisingly, these are the five most controversial – they include a ban on .50 caliber rifles and mandatory safety-training courses for firearm permits – and Christie, who’s on vacation, hasn’t announced his intentions on these additional measures.

As you might imagine, political considerations are fairly important in this process.

On the one hand, Christie has a re-election campaign to think about, and Election Day is less than three months away. The governor has an enormous lead in the polls, but if he vetoes popular gun-safety measures already approved by the state legislature, it may undermine his popular support at an inopportune moment.

On the other, Christie apparently has national ambitions, and if he expects to compete in presidential primaries, he’ll have to win over right-wing activists – most of whom strongly oppose efforts to prevent gun violence.

The Republican base is already suspicious of Christie – he praised and embraced (literally) President Obama during the response to Hurricane Sandy; he’s accepted expansion of the Affordable Care Act in the Garden State; and he’s referred to elements of the conservative movement as “the crazies.”

And now he’s signed 10 new measures on gun safety into law. It’s not difficult to imagine the 2016 attack ads.

As for the larger policy context, the gun issue has struggled to gain traction inside the Beltway, but there’s still plenty going on at the state level worth watching.