- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Falling just three votes short Thursday, New Jersey lawmakers have set up yet another attempt at overriding Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a gun-related bill.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto says the Democrat-controlled chamber will try again on Dec. 17. Democrats have tried more than 50 times to override Christie but have never succeeded.

A closer look at the measure and what’s next in New Jersey:

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THE MEASURE

The bill requires people seeking to clear their mental health records in order to purchase a firearm to first notify law enforcement agencies. The reason, bill sponsors say, is so courts that determine whether to clear the record have a full picture of a person’s history. Under current statute, the courts deciding whether to expunge a mental health record are not updated on a person’s law enforcement background. Initially, the measure was uncontroversial and passed with unanimous support in the Legislature.

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THE DEBATE

The bill became politically charged after Christie conditionally vetoed it this year, arguing for a more comprehensive approach to mental health and firearms, including allowing for the involuntary commitment of people with mental illness who if untreated could become dangerous. Democrats say the bill is a simple fix that judges and law enforcement officials asked for and that Christie’s proposal goes far afield of the bill’s scope. Christie has said Democrats are playing politics with the issue. Caught in the middle are legislative Republicans who all supported the measure initially but have never voted to override their fellow Republican.

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THE NATIONAL STAGE

The issue comes as Christie pursues the presidential nomination in a crowded, conservative field. Because of that, Democrats say, he’s eager to appear tougher on gun control than the people of New Jersey would expect. Christie says his record shows he is strong on the Second Amendment and can point to the pardons of five people facing gun violations in New Jersey as well as a veto of a bill banning high-caliber weapons.

But the governor has also touted never being overridden on the campaign trail. “I veto 400 bills from a crazy liberal Democratic Legislature, not one of them has been overridden,” he said during a debate in September. The issue also comes after the shootings in California that killed 14 people, which Democrats cited as a reason to take action on the bill. Republicans objected, saying that shooting appears unrelated to the issue before New Jersey.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

The bill’s fate is unclear. The key to its fate may lie in the 11 lawmakers who abstained during Thursday’s vote. Prieto says he is considering using a procedural tactic that would effectively require lawmakers to vote yes or no on the bill later this month.

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