New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has had such a remarkable change of heart on the Second Amendment over in the past six months that he actually vetoed part of his own gun-control agenda. The governor enraged anti-gun groups when he rejected three of the Democrat-controlled Legislature’s radical bills on Friday night.
Mr. Christie, who is running for re-election this year, used a conditional veto to rewrite the most extreme bills that came out of the Legislature this year. The key controversial one would have identified gun owners on a “smart card” such as a driver’s license. There was also a training requirement just to own a firearm and a ban on private exchanges.
The governor also vetoed a bill to ban .50-caliber firearms, which are never used in crimes, even though he called for this same measure earlier this year. The Legislature can accept the rewritten bills, find a two-thirds majority to override or the full veto stands, which is most likely.
“The NRA isn’t in the business of divining motives,” the National Rifle Association’s Andrew Arulanandam told me Monday. “We are pleased that he vetoed a number of bad legislative proposals last week. However, we are disappointed that he signed some bad bills into law prior.”
Mr. Arulanandam is referring to last week, when Mr. Christie signed into law 10 gun-control bills. Only one of these would have a positive effect on gun violence by requiring the state to submit mental health records to the FBI for the National Instant Background Checks System. Currently, New Jersey ranks 39th in the country in the number of mental health records the state submits — having sent just 17 records in 2011.
In the frenzy to pass gun control after the Newtown, Conn., shootings in December, Mr. Christie created a SAFE Task Force, which he followed up with a legislative agenda to “responsibly expand New Jersey’s strict gun-control measures.” Never mind that the state already had the second-most-restrictive gun laws in the country, according to the Brady Campaign.
During the legislative process, the true intent of New Jersey politicians came to light when an official audio recording from a Senate Budget Committee hearing on May 9 was publicized by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs.
On the hot microphone, a woman who sounded like one of the Democratic senators on the committee said, “We needed a bill that was going to confiscate, confiscate, confiscate.” Another woman said: “They don’t care about the bad guys. All they want to do is have their little guns and do whatever they want with them.”
Mr. Christie’s rightward move seems to indicate he is considering the impact his gun policies would have in a Republican presidential primary. However, Mr. Christie again reverted to a liberal social agenda on Monday when he signed into law a ban the practice of gay-conversion therapy on minors in New Jersey.
Just last Thursday, the governor was invited by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to speak at the group’s summer meeting in Boston. Many attendees at the lunch were apprehensive about hearing from Mr. Christie, whom they view as helping President Obama win re-election with their highly publicized tour of the Garden State after Hurricane Sandy a week before the November election.
Mr. Christie also has taken heat this summer for saying that libertarians such as popular Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, were “very dangerous” to national security. On Sunday, Mr. Paul said on Fox News that Mr. Christie’s comments were a “big mistake” because the GOP in the Northeast is “shrinking almost down to nothing” and needs new ideas to attract the young, independents and Democrats.
The Republican Party leaders in Bean Town, however, were wowed by the charismatic governor, who talked of implementing conservative principles in a blue state, which resulted in an increase in support from blacks, women and Hispanics.
Turning away from his own push for radical gun-control measures can only help Mr. Christie in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.