The Democratic-controlled state legislature in New Jersey approved 15 measures to address gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, and last week, Gov. Chris Christie (R) approved 10 of them. The measures signed into law weren't terribly controversial -- they mostly dealt with increasing penalties on existing gun laws.
Christie did not, however, take a side on the five most contentious bills, including a ban on .50 caliber rifles. That changed late this afternoon.
Gov. Chris Christie issued an absolute veto today of the bill that would have barred civilians' use of .50-caliber weapons.In discussing A3659/S2178, Christie's office said in a release that "The bill passed by the legislature seeks to ban a firearm that has reportedly never been used in a crime in New Jersey. It imposes criminal liabilities on all current owners of these firearms, including those who believed that they had properly registered their guns with law enforcement."
It's worth pausing to appreciate just what Christie has done with this veto. See that image above? The .50 caliber is the one on the left. As Rachel explained on the show earlier this week, a .50 caliber shell is basically the size of a "carrot," which serves "an effective military weapon against even some armored vehicles. A few years back, 60 Minutes showed .50 caliber rifles making short work of steel plate armor at several hundred yards." It also has the capacity to shoot down an airplane.
Under current law in New Jersey, any adult can legally purchase this weapon. The state legislature decided that's no longer a good idea, and today, Chris Christie vetoed the ban.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) said in a statement, "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."
This was not his only gun-related veto this afternoon -- Christie also rejected a bill that would create new firearm ID "smartcards."
I have a hunch Rachel will have more on these developments on tonight's show.