It wasn’t that long ago that New Jersey governor Chris Christie spoke out for expanded federal gun-control legislation — in fact, it was less than four months ago when Christie criticized the US Senate for not passing expanded background checks for gun purchases, while pushing for a ban on certain kinds of weapons in New Jersey. However, when the state legislature responded with a bill that banned the specific weapon that Christie demanded, the governor ended up turning the tables and issued a veto:
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.
Christie altered two bills, sending them back to the Legislature — a massive measure (S2723) known as state Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s “centerpiece” to overhaul the way the state issues firearms ID cards, and legislation to require New Jersey law enforcement agencies to report information on lost, stolen and discarded guns to federal databases (A3797).
But the 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.
Why the change of heart? Christie claimed that the legislation went farther than he wanted by outlawing even current private ownership of the Barrett, which would have required confiscation of those weapons. However, Christie also argued that the Barrett and other weapons in its class has never been tied to crime at all anyway:
“Tellingly, the Legislature points to no instance of this class of firearms being used by even a single criminal in New Jersey,” Christie wrote. “The wide scope of this total ban, therefore, will not further public safety, but only interfere with lawful recreational pastimes.”
Ooooooo-kay, then. If that’s true, then why did Christie insist in April that the Barrett .50-caliber rifle needed to be banned at all? That was, after all, Christie’s own idea, and in April the idea that such a ban would interfere with “lawful recreational pastimes” for future owners of the Barrett didn’t seem to trouble Christie. On the other hand, if the Barrett .50-caliber rifle is so dangerous as to require a ban, why would the state leave any in the hands of private owners at all?
Perhaps Christie has figured out that his original position was nonsense. The Barrett is no more dangerous to public safety than any other firearm; the danger is in the person who holds it and their intent in using it, as is true for every other kind of weapon one can imagine. Or maybe Christie has just figured out that he wouldn’t have a prayer of winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination with his signature on a gun ban.