Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lawmakers Block Christie Plan for Right to Carry

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lawmakers Block Christie Plan for Right to Carry

Article excerpt

Democratic lawmakers blocked Governor Christie from loosening one of New Jersey's toughest gun-control laws on Thursday, turning the tables for once on a governor known for his prolific use of the veto pen.

Criticizing New Jersey's gun laws as too restrictive, Christie proposed a change in statewide regulations earlier this year to expand the categories of people who may carry handguns in public.

Christie's regulatory change did not require the Legislature's approval. The state constitution, however, gives lawmakers the power to strike down any regulation that defies "legislative intent" -- and they proceeded to use it Thursday for the fourth time since Christie took office in 2010.

The Assembly adopted a resolution that blocks Christie's gun proposal, 46-29, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. The state Senate adopted the same resolution in May. Christie cannot veto the measure.

Democrats introduced the measure months before a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, killing 49 and wounding more than 50 others in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

"The governor unilaterally decided he wanted to expand the regulations governing the right to carry in New Jersey," said Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, the lead sponsor of the measure. "We feel that the expansion of those regulations is not part of the legislative intent in the law we passed, and we have a process that allows us to overrule."

She added: "I felt that before Orlando and I feel it after Orlando."

Asked about the Democrats' moves, Christie said at a news conference Thursday, "They're wrong and we'll fight them." But he declined to say how.

The Christie administration now has 30 days to withdraw or amend its proposal, but Democrats said Thursday it was hard to imagine any amendment allaying their concerns. Both houses of the Legislature must vote again after 30 days to formally invalidate Christie's plan.

Under current law, applicants for a permit to carry a handgun must show a "justifiable need," a phrase courts have interpreted to mean "specific threats" or "previous attacks." It's a high bar that many gun groups say is impossible to meet.

Christie had proposed adding a third category -- "serious threats" -- but Democratic lawmakers said that standard was too vague and would open the door to more guns on the streets and pose a risk to public safety.

"Because our Legislature has been proactive about firearm safety, New Jersey has the strongest gun safety laws in the nation and ranks among states with the fewest gun deaths in the nation," said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, D-Camden, the sponsor in the lower house. "In the wake of repeated incidents of mass violence involving firearms, the last thing we ought to do is increase the proliferation of firearms. …

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