New Jersey gun rights advocates are cautiously pleased Gov. Christopher J. Christie vetoed July 2 a bill limiting magazines from 15 to 10 rounds.
“The state legislature were pushing very hard for a bill that reduces the lawful maximum capacity of ammunitions magazines from 15 rounds to 10 rounds,” said Frank Jack Fiamingo, president of The New Jersey Second Amendment Society. NJ2AS is a human rights advocacy group that lobbies against unreasonable gun control laws.
Despite strong opposition at committee hearings to Assembly Bill No. 2006, the overwhelming majority of the state legislature passed the bill, said Fiamingo. “Ninety-eight percent of the people who gave testimony were pro-Second Amendment and pro-right to carry.”
In a 30-page letter to the state legislature, Christie outlined his decision to veto the gun control measure: Appropriate empathy for victims, and their suffering survivors, blurs with politics and elected officials’ self-promotion to create a polarizing intolerance. We ignore the hard for the expedient, the controversial for the safely familiar, and the costly for those cheaply recycled answers that never really address the root causes.
Taking office in January 2010, Christie, who is a potential candidate for president 2016, became the first Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey in 12 years. It is a false premise to think gun control laws prevent violent crimes, said Fiamingo.
“If you look at any inner city in New Jersey, there is daily gun crimes,” he said. “These crimes are not being committed by licensed gun holders, they are being committed by gangs, drug dealers, and criminals.”
Liberal members of the state legislature somehow believe that if they restrict access to guns to law-abiding citizens it will reduce gun crime, he said. “That is patently ridiculous.”
Fiamingo said the governor’s efforts to address mental health and gun crime have fallen on deaf ears.
Christie said in his veto response he thought the real problem is mental illness.
“Eliminating the obvious dangers posed by untreated mental illnesses should have been a priority for the legislature. But taking up the challenge of mental health would mean a controversial, challenging, and often uncomfortable public dialogue. Not surprisingly, the majority supporting this bill took the easier path,” the governor said.
Fiamingo said although mental illness is a concern, it was not fair to restrict the gun rights and right to self-defense from law-abiding citizens.
“We do not want criminals and the mentally-ill from being able to get their hands on firearms,” he said.
The Garden State legislature are avoiding real problems for political expediency, he said.
Christie said as the executive he will lead in this uncomfortable task.
“Governing is leading the conversation, especially on those topics deemed too sensitive, too risky for elected officials, he said.
“Facing the intersection between untreated mental illnesses and mass violence is exactly the kind of real reform our State would welcome. It is a chance to examine the real causes of mass violence,” he said.
“We will not settle for grandstanding reform in name only. We can insist that elected officials pass laws that will bring about meaningful change. Mass violence will not end by changing the number of bullets loaded into a gun,” said Christie in his veto response.
Fiamingo said controversial mental health provisions is a serious challenge the legislature sadly ignores.
Christie made the right decision, but the governor has lapsed in making executive changes, he said.
“The governor has won a lot of people-over in the gun community; people who were unsure what he would do, now are supportive,” he said. “However if you look at his record on the Second Amendment he is not a tremendous supporter.”
Particularly when it comes to administrative policy and procedure which is Christie’s jurisdiction, he said. “He could have cleared up all of this nonsense of additional forms and an up to nine-month wait-time before receiving a Firearm Purchaser Identification card,” he said.
In New Jersey, each handgun requires its own permit. Currently, gun owners must rely on an inappropriate middle man, the state police, to perform a National Instant Criminal Background Check before a firearm purchase is transacted, said Fiamingo. “Police should not get involved; they are just delaying things further.”
There are other ways the governor can act proactively, he said. The courts have determined that a New Jersey citizen must prove an imminent threat to their life to meet the “justifiable need” threshold in order to be licensed to own a firearm. Christie could act executively, he said.
“The governor could direct all of the municipal chiefs of police to accept self-defense as a justifiable need.” To Christie’s credit, however, each time there was a critical or essential decision, he acted appropriately, he said. “Christie commuted the seven-year sentence of a man who did nothing wrong except move from one state to another with his lawfully owned firearms.”
The governor also vetoed two bills last year aimed at reducing firearm ownership towards law-abiding citizens while ignoring complicated gun-related violence, said Fiamingo. “The legislature has never really concentrated on the really hard issues and the governor called them to task for it.”
With respect to Christie, he is a mixed blessing, he said. “No, I do not believe him to be a hero of Second Amendment, yet he has done the right thing – enough.”