New Jersey’s Democratic legislature approved a measure in the spring to limit the size of firearm magazines to 10 rounds of ammunition. In theory, it’s the sort of gun-safety reform that’s tough to condemn – it’s perfectly consistent with the Constitution; it doesn’t affect hunters; it wouldn’t prevent Americans from buying firearms to protect themselves; and it might save lives.
The bill landed on Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) desk in May, but as we talked about last week, the Republican governor waited until the day before a holiday weekend to announce he’d vetoed the legislation. As Rachel noted on the show, Christie soon after added insult to injury.
First, note that the governor refused to meet with some parents whose children were murdered in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. It’s tempting to think basic human decency, if nothing else, would lead a politician to at least hear these parents out, but Christie’s office said he was out – even though the parents said they saw the governor when they arrived at his office.
Second, note how Christie explained himself yesterday while talking to reporters.
“I’ve heard the argument, and so, are we saying, then, that the 10 children on the clip that they advocate for, that their lives are less valuable? If you take the logical conclusion of their argument, you go to zero, because every life is valuable.“And so why 10? Why not six? Why not two? Why not one? Why not zero? Why not just ban guns completely? I mean, you know, so the logical conclusion of their argument is that you get to zero eventually.“So, you know, I understand their argument. I feel extraordinary sympathy for them and the other families, and all the families across America who are the victims of gun violence…. I understand their argument. I’ve heard their argument. I don’t agree with their argument.”
It’s important to understand why this slippery-slope argument is so deeply flawed.
In some of the high-profile mass shootings from recent memory, the ability of the gunman to use high-capacity clips has mattered a great deal. It’s not hard to understand why: when the shooter has to stop to reload, it gives people a chance. Maybe some can get away. Maybe the gunman can be tackled. Maybe that interval, however brief, can make the difference between life and death for a potential victim.
And so lawmakers in New Jersey decided, in the name of public safety, to lower the legal limit of the magazine from 15 rounds to 10. The governor said last week such a change “will not end” gun violence, which is true, but it also misses the point. The goal here is to reduce the number of people who might get shot.
Christie wants to know if “they” – presumably, “they” refers to parents whose children were massacred – are arguing “that the 10 children on the clip that they advocate for, that their lives are less valuable.” I obviously can’t speak for them, but the governor’s cheap reply is based on deeply flawed logic.
Christie hasn’t denied that this gun-safety reform might make a difference. Instead, he’s arguing that since we can’t save everyone, he’s not inclined to try to save anyone.
And all the while, New Jersey’s Tough Guy Governor doesn’t even have the courage to sit down with Newtown parents and make his bad argument to their faces.
Rachel concluded last night, “No one is quite sure what counts as a shameful moment in New Jersey politics anymore, but the governor calling out the parents of murdered kids, for them not understanding the value of human life? This is at least testing the bounds of what is usually called shameful, if not the very definition of the word, itself.”