If we were making a list of the reasons New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will struggle to gain national support from his party's right-wing base, we'd have plenty to work with: 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; and he's referred to elements of the GOP base as "the crazies"; and he's supported reforms on gun laws.
But on that last one, the governor is, shall we say, evolving.
After months of pressure from both sides of the gun control debate, Gov. Chris Christie today refused to sign three controversial gun control measures sitting on his desk -- including a version of a weapon ban that he had called for. [...][T]he governor completely axed a bill that would ban the Barrett .50 caliber rifle (A3659), which is the most powerful weapon commonly available to civilians. Christie had called for a ban on future sales of the weapon in his own package of violent prevention measures outlined in April.
As we discussed late on Friday, New Jersey's legislature approved a ban on .50-cabliber weapons, which fire ammunition the size of carrots, has the capacity to pierce steel plate armor from several hundred yards away, and can even shoot down airplanes. Christie, with his national ambitions likely in mind, vetoed the ban.
But the Star-Ledger's report adds a relevant detail -- when Christie offered a series of gun reforms earlier this year, he endorsed a ban on .50-cabliber weapons, saying there was no need for consumers to purchase these kinds of firearms. So why would the governor veto a measure he ostensibly supports? Because, Christie said, the proposal bans the weapons that have already been sold in the Garden State.
In other words, if you're in New Jersey and you already have a .50-cabliber weapon that can shoot down an airplane, Christie has no problem with you keeping it around indefinitely. The governor is, however, comfortable with banning the future sales of these guns. How courageous of him.
And this leads to a related point: whatever happened to Chris Christie's "brand" as a tough, no-nonsense politician who's not afraid of anything?
The Washington Post noted the interesting timing of the governor's veto.
Christie's veto -- which his office waited until after 6 p.m. on Friday to announce -- drew swift and sharp criticism from gun-control advocates.
As a rule, when politicians have to release important news, but they don't want anyone to know about it, then wait until late on a Friday afternoon to dump the announcement. Christie and his aides could have let the public know about the veto anytime, but they chose the one part of the week best known for burying the news.
In other words, the governor was comfortable vetoing a measure awfully similar to what he'd already proposed, but he wasn't exactly proud of himself.
What's more, note that this comes the same summer in which Christie scheduled a U.S. Senate special election in New Jersey for a Wednesday in mid-October, even though there's a statewide election a couple of weeks later. It's a wasteful, expensive move, with no fair rationale. So why did Christie pick this date? Because he was afraid to be on the same ballot as Cory Booker (D), even though the governor has a big lead in the polls.
In other words, Christie is afraid of competition and he's afraid his party's base won't like him and he's afraid of the mainstream public hearing about his veto of .50-caliber firearms.
So much for the confident leader who doesn't shy away from a fight.