Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Defends Pardons, Seeks Bill to Alter 'Illogical' Gun Laws

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Defends Pardons, Seeks Bill to Alter 'Illogical' Gun Laws

Article excerpt

Governor Christie said he'll continue to issue pardons to out-of- state residents who bring their legally obtained handguns into New Jersey against state laws, but he's still against a measure before Congress that would require New Jersey to recognize carry permits from other states.

While Christie opposes the federal legislation, he said he would consider a bill to change New Jersey's "illogical" gun laws, to recognize permits from other states if the Democrats who control the Legislature send him one. Until then, he said his hands are tied.

"I'd be happy to consider changes to those laws if sent to me by the Legislature," Christie said Thursday during a State House news conference about Hurricane Joaquin. "Instead, all I've gotten from the Legislature are ways to make New Jersey's gun laws even more unreasonable."

But lawyers who have handled numerous gun cases in the state say there are steps Christie could take without lawmakers, including directives issued by the attorney general -- like a clarification written last year -- on how prosecutors should handle such cases.

Gun advocates have lobbied Christie in recent years to pardon several individuals who faced possession charges. Christie has so far pardoned five people this year, including the three pardons he issued Wednesday. Attorneys Jef Henninger of Tinton Falls and Evan Nappen of Eatontown, who specialize in such cases, credit the uptick in high-profile cases to a change to the state's gun laws that was signed by Gov. Jon Corzine in early 2008 as part of anti-gang legislation meant to crack down on illegal guns.

Prior to that change people could be charged with simple possession, and many cases were dismissed. And in those that weren't, defendants were permitted to apply for Pretrial Intervention, a program that allows people who successfully complete it to have their records expunged, Henninger and Nappen said.

Now anyone charged with weapons possession faces a second-degree charge, which carries a mandatory prison sentence, and defendants must get the approval of a prosecutor before they can apply for Pretrial Intervention.

"That's the issue I think you have to look at, is this person a legal gun owner or not," Henninger said. …

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