Christie vetoes reduced ammunition clip limit bill

“We will not settle for grandstanding reform in name only,” Christie said in a veto message. “Mass violence will not end by changing the number of bullets loaded into a gun. It will end with a serious commitment to elevating our response to mental illness, a declaration that we will not let our discomfort with disease threaten our children, our families and our communities.”

The legislation was sent to Christie in May after the Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate approved it with party-line votes.

Christie did not outright veto the legislation, but instead conditionally vetoed it so that all references to the ammunition limit were deleted and replaced with five recommended reforms to the state’s mental health system.

His recommendations included creating new standards for involuntary commitment and outpatient treatment for people with mental illness who may not be considered dangerous now, but who could become a risk if they do not receive treatment.

His veto recommendations also call for the transfer between commitment and outpatient treatment to be streamlined and for stricter rules related to awarding gun permits to people who were previously involuntarily committed.

The ammunition limit had been pushed by gun control advocates and the families of victims killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut, who argued that the limit could save lives by forcing a shooter to reload after firing 10 bullets.

Supporters also argued that a 10-round limit was previously in place as part of the 1994 federal assault ban that expired in 2004.

Gun rights groups complained that the proposed limit was arbitrary and that criminals would not obey it. Many gun owners also said it would make many of their legal guns with 15-round clips illegal.

Christie, who is considered a possible candidate for the White House in 2016, rejected the gun control advocates’ reasoning and said the measure’s benefits were purely political.

“This is the very embodiment of reform in name only,” he said. “It simply defies common sense to believe that imposing a new and entirely arbitrary number of bullets that can be lawfully loaded into a firearm will somehow eradicate or even reduce future instances of mass violence.”

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, D-6th of Voorhees, who authored the legislation in the Assembly, said the veto reflected Christie’s White House ambitions rather than good policy for New Jersey.

“I would imagine this is a very uncomfortable topic to have with conservative voters in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Greenwald said. “This was a cowardly decision that lacks leadership. In fact, this is political expediency at its worst.”

The veto is not the first time Christie has rejected new gun laws. Last year, he vetoed most of the gun-related bills sent to him by the Legislature, although he did sign a few, including one authored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, to increase penalties against illegal gun traffickers.

The ammunition bill was not among those sent to Christie last year, in part because Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd of West Deptford, did not support it.

Sweeney changed his mind this year after speaking to Sandy Hook families. On Wednesday, he accused Christie of “putting off real solutions to our state’s problems in exchange for sound bites.”

“He’s done it with the pension system, he’s done it to the victims of Superstorm Sandy, and now he is doing it on gun violence,” Sweeney said.

Gun rights advocates applauded Christie’s decision.

“After months of intense battle over this misguided legislation that won’t stop another crime or prevent another tragedy, we are grateful that Gov. Christie has heard the voice of the outdoor community and ended the discussion,” said Scott Bach, director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs. “The governor clearly recognizes the difference between legislation that punishes violent criminals versus legislation that targets the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

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  • Francesca Larson
    published this page in In The News 2014-07-03 09:57:55 -0400