- Associated Press - Monday, October 9, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A national group that promotes gun control has given its support to Democrat Phil Murphy in the state’s gubernatorial race.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence announced its endorsement Monday during a news conference in Trenton.

Group leaders said Murphy, a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive, would strengthen background checks and end loopholes in the state’s current laws. They also criticized Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Murphy’s opponent in next month’s election, and GOP Gov. Chris Christie for “being in the gun lobby’s pocket.”

Murphy thanked the group for its support, saying the state’s gun laws can be made stronger “while respecting the Second Amendment.” He also said policy changes could be made by working with other “like-minded states.”

Murphy, who has never held elected office but served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013, also rejected the arguments made by some critics who, citing the mass shooting in Las Vegas, have said that “now is not the time” to discuss gun control.

“This is exactly the right time,” he said.

The Guadagno campaign disputed the claims, noting that New Jersey has the nation’s third-most restrictive gun laws and saying “we should never politicize public safety.”

Speaking Monday with reporters at an unrelated event in Bridgewater, Guadagno said she would consider harsher penalties for people convicted of using firearms during other crimes and enhancing enforcement of the state’s already tight gun measures. Citing the Las Vegas shooting, she said she would consider some more mental health background checks and reiterated her acceptance of banning bump stocks, devices that enable rifles to fire continuously, like automatic weapons can.

Guadagno’s comments came after she said last week that she wouldn’t alter the state’s gun laws of elected. It’s unclear why she appeared on Monday to back additional changes that she seemed to rule out last week.

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