Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie's Strategy on Gun Control Is to Wait

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie's Strategy on Gun Control Is to Wait

Article excerpt

The former federal prosecutor, who once hunted down out-of-state gun traffickers, had a chance to make a blunt, compelling case for tighter gun laws last week. But Governor Christie took a pass.

Christie, who now grabs the nation's attention every time he thunders from his Trenton pulpit, went low-key and cautious, refusing to feed the 24-hour media cycle he has so masterfully exploited over the past four years.

He unveiled the mother of all Trenton play-it-safe strategies -- a task force with a clever acronym, staffed with experts and elder statesmen and put on a 60-day deadline to deliver suggestions.

Christie gave it a no-holds-barred mandate to explore root causes of violence, like mental illness, the potential impact of violent video games, and drug and alcohol addiction. He wants issues like school security explored. Oh, and let's not forget, gun control. Possible improvements to New Jersey laws will be studied but only as a piece of the larger, "holistic" approach to reducing violence.

"If we call this just gun control, in my view we're missing out on the bigger story," Christie said. "We have to call this violence control."

Of course, the sentiment and purpose is perfectly sensible, even laudable. After all, a horrified nation has been asking those very questions since Adam Lanza, armed with a high-capacity semiautomatic rifle, massacred 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month. It's also a nation now demanding new restrictions on the sale of guns and ammunition.

But Christie, who didn't mention gun control or the Newtown massacre in his State of the State speech, signaled that he's not an enthusiastic champion of more gun laws. While he said the panel is not to have its hands tied with preconceived conclusions, he also took pains to restate his "very clear" position, which is, that New Jersey should enforce the strong laws it already has on the books. It was as if he was telling panel members standing behind him that they probably shouldn't waste too much of their time exploring new gun restrictions.

And when pressed by reporters to weigh in on the national debate on issues such as a federal ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, Christie has avoided the question.

"You can ask me as many times as you want, and when I believe it's appropriate for me to give an opinion on that, I'll give one," he said last Thursday.

Christie has tried to walk a fine line as a Republican governor running for reelection in a Democratic Northeast state. He surprised the political establishment last month by criticizing the National Rifle Association's call for putting armed guards in public schools. And Christie said an NRA attack video that featured the president's two daughters was "reprehensible." Those headlines help moderate his image in blue Jersey. …

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