Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie's Gun Plan Plays It Safe Politically

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie's Gun Plan Plays It Safe Politically

Article excerpt

Governor Christie rolled out a plan Friday aimed at protecting New Jersey residents from gun violence.

His 50 "common sense" recommendations appear also to be a strategy to protect his political future by offering up just enough new restrictions and penalties to satisfy New Jersey's pro-gun control voters without alienating the Second Amendment purists whom he'll have to woo if he runs for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

At least for the moment, Christie's positioning seems to have worked. Neither side was thrilled or furious. Praise was tempered by disappointment, but it did not spark a passionate outcry. Both sides shrugged.

That might be because New Jersey, like the rest of the nation, was riveted by the hunt for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings when the report was released Friday afternoon, a shrewd, end-of-the-week time to disclose unflattering or sensitive news. Or maybe a sense of resignation, even fatigue over the gun issue has set in after last week's failure to approve background checks in the U.S. Senate.

Christie's careful structuring of the plan may have had something to do with the muted response.

The plan was not cheered by gun control advocates. Christie did not call to limit ammunition magazines from 15 rounds to 10, a proposal that was approved by the Assembly last month. There was no call for mandatory firearms training.

"It's gun control-lite," said Bryan Miller, director of Heeding God's Call, a Philadelphia-based gun control group that tracks New Jersey legislation.

But critics also found it hard to fault other Christie ideas, such as imposing tougher penalties for gun trafficking, for using "straw purchasers" to legally buy guns on behalf of criminals, and allowing firearms to fall into the hands of minors.

Gun rights groups also registered a mixed reaction. Frank J. Fiamingo, president of the Second Amendment Association of New Jersey, also applauded the tougher penalties. His group supports any laws that prevent guns from getting into the hands of criminals. Yet, he was "disappointed" with Christie's proposal to ban future sales of large, military-style .50-caliber rifles, used largely in competitions. The state police said Monday that they "are not aware of anyone ever being shot" by one of these rifles.

"So why are we trying to fix something that isn't a problem?" Fiamingo said. He also criticized Christie's call to mandate photo IDs at all gun purchases as another unnecessary infringement on legal gun owners' constitutional rights.

The governor took other steps not to alarm gun owners.

The governor's call for a more holistic approach - expanded mental health treatment, tighter restrictions on the sale of violent video games to minors -- is also embraced by national gun rights groups, who prefer to debate the root causes of gun violence rather than fight new restrictions on gun sales. …

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