Gun control Not a Campaign Issue in Many New Jersey Races

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

We know that New Jersey seems to love gun control.

They’ve got enough of it, after all, so I’d be shocked to find out that the majority of the people were against such a thing in the first place. We know there are pro-gun voices–we publish John Petrolino, for crying out loud, and that poor SOB lives in New Jersey–but they’re a distinct minority.


Even so, you’d expect a state that saw a lot of gun control passed recently to have gun control as a major topic of debate during campaign season.

Well, you’d be wrong, apparently.

At this time last year, guns were all anyone could talk about in Trenton.

The U.S. Supreme Court had struck down states’ restrictions on the public’s right to carry, leaving lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in New Jersey scrambling. Democrats introduced a sweeping legislative package intended to avert the avalanche of gun violence they predicted, while Republicans presciently warned of the court challenges to come.

Now, just three weeks before an election where all 120 legislative seats will be up for grabs, firearms have become a footnote in most campaigns, overshadowed by issues like abortion, offshore wind, and parental rights.

It’s an interesting omission, given that it seems like it could be a winning issue for either side. Democrats could tout their tough stance against guns in a state where a majority of residents worry about gun violence and disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling, while Republicans could celebrate gun rights’ advocates’ court wins and a Supreme Court that has declared the Second Amendment the most important guide in gun policy disputes.

But political observers say there are several reasons why guns haven’t played a bigger role in campaigns this election season.

“Public opinion matters, and this is one of these issues where public opinion is pretty squarely in the camp of gun control,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.


That’s probably a fair assessment. While folks like John are vehemently pro-gun, they’re the minority in the Garden State. As such, there’s no reason to debate a topic that most politicians and their potential voters already agree on.

They might as well debate if otters are cute.

Another reason given is that with so many challenges of New Jersey gun control laws taking place, many politicians are pausing gun rhetoric, at least until they see how everything falls in the long run. That’s not a terrible thought, either, because it makes sense. They may want to find out what they can actually pass and keep rather than putting in a lot of effort to pass laws that literally never take effect.

I get it.

Still, I’m a little concerned that no one is talking about it, even in opposition. If the above is correct, then it means the pro-gun voices in the state are so minuscule as to be largely irrelevant in state politics. That’s alarming since we’re talking about a basic, constitutionally protected right.

Then again, it’s New Jersey. What else is new?

Join the conversation as a VIP Member