“You’ve called the president a petulant child,” Sean Hannity starts off his interview with Chris Christie, and the governor of New Jersey gratefully embraces the opening to launch an attack on Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, ObamaCare, and especially gun control. Christie also blasts the Republican-controlled Congress for being “weak … vacillating,” and says, “They haven’t done their job” in standing up to Obama. When it comes to vacillation, though, conservatives have a very specific bone to pick with Christie as well on gun rights, a subject that played a large part in the grassroots’ disillusionment with Christie over the past couple of years.
Hannity reminds Christie that he sounded closer to Obama than most Republicans on this issue in the past. Christie says he’s changed his mind on gun rights, and now he sees the light:
“Well listen, in 1995, Sean, I was 32 years old and I’ve changed my mind,” Christie said. “And the biggest reason that I changed my mind was my seven years as a federal prosecutor. What I learned in those seven years was that we were spending much too much time talking about gun laws against law-abiding citizens and not nearly enough time talking about enforcing the gun laws strongly against criminals.”
During his state Senate bid in 1993, Christie called a GOP effort to repeal the state’s assault weapons ban an “issue which has energized me to get into this race.” Two years later, Christie campaigned as a supporter of an assault weapons ban and called those in opposition “dangerous,” “crazy” and “radical.”
“They must be stopped,” he said at the time.
So his gun-control support was a youthful indiscretion? Now he wants New Jersey to become a “shall issue” state for carry permits, although there doesn’t appear to be much evidence that he’s forwarded that as a proposal. Still, Christie says that his seven years as a prosecutor has made him see the light on the need to protect gun rights for law-abiding citizens. In fact, he sees the light so brightly that Christie can’t even remember the darkness:
But his concession that he simply changed his mind is a dramatic shift for the Republican presidential candidate. When asked about his changing gun stance in November, Christie said he couldn’t remember supporting an assault weapons ban, remarking that maybe he did, but “it doesn’t sound like me.”
Now it sounds like a 32-year-old version of him. Maybe someone introduced the governor to the state-senate candidate from 22 years ago in the past couple of months.
Look, we want to change minds on gun rights (and on abortion, and on a number of other issues). That’s why we engage in politics in the first place. If Governor Christie has truly seen the light on gun control and the foolishness of disarming law-abiding citizens, terrific. But we are entitled to a certain amount of skepticism on claims like this when they are clearly self-serving, especially considering Christie’s track record of action on the issue … or more precisely, lack thereof.
It would be much easier to credit Christie with this change of heart if we saw him using his influence as his state’s chief executive to expand gun rights in New Jersey before last month. As of now, though, the Garden State doesn’t offer reciprocity with any other state on carry permits, and the state’s gun laws routinely snare legal gun owners on that basis who otherwise abided by the law. Christie has had to issue clemency in more than one case to correct those injustices, but there is little evidence that Christie’s epiphany as a prosecutor has changed him enough to act muscularly to reform New Jersey’s gun laws.
I hope Governor Christie has truly had an epiphany on gun rights. If he has, though, then he has something in common with the “weak [and] vacillating” Republican Congress he criticizes here.