This is the seventh in a series of articles exploring the critical policy challenges that the next governor and Legislature will face, as well as their positions on these issues.
On issues as diverse as abortion, same-sex marriage, and gun control, the differences between Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic challenger Sen. Barbara Buono could not be clearer.
That is, if anyone could find Christie’s positions.
Buono’shas a section on issues that includes several position papers. Christie’s , however, does not. The governor's campaign site only contains brief biographies of Christie and Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno; a description of seven accomplishments during his current term; contribution, contact and volunteer forms; a video archive and news releases, most of which are about ads and endorsements. This is quite different from his 2009 campaign website, which had the same Internet address and a full section on issues.
“The Governor’s positions on these issues are public and well documented during his time as Governor,” said Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the Christie campaign.
Some of Christie’s positions are well-known, but they are not easy to find and are not always easy to characterize.
Last year, during a press conference, Christie said he was committed to “strictly enforcing” the state’s gun laws, calling them “some of the most aggressive in the country.”
Earlier this year, Christie signed into law 10 bills passed by the Legislature designed to toughen state laws, including upgrading the penalty for unlawfully transferring a firearm to a minor, upgrading the penalty for unlawful possession of a firearm to a first-degree offense, and requiring the submission of mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
But he conditionally vetoed -- which in this legislative climate essentially is a death knell -- the most stringent of the bills, including one (S-2723) that would overhaul the state’s permitting process and put in place a system of electronic instant background checks.
In his veto message on the background checks, Christie lamented that lawmakers did not act on his proposed “common-sense policies,” following the mass shooting of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but instead passed 15 bills aimed solely at gun control. In his veto message, Christie wrote that the digital cards “offer a reasonable modernization of our State’s gun purchase system,” but the technology to implement it does not currently exist.
Buono, who voted for that bill, supports a national instant background check for all sales or license transfers of handguns, rifles, or shotguns with few exceptions, such as for family members, law enforcement, and licensed collectors. Private gun sales provide a loophole for getting around background checks and she said she would close that, while she said Christie “has refused to even acknowledge there is a private sale loophole.”
She also criticized the governor for vetoing a bill (A-3659) that would have banned .50 caliber rifles,
In his absolute veto of that measure, Christie wrote that New Jersey already has the second-strictest gun laws in the nation and the bill would have gone too far, criminalizing the ownership of a whole class of firearms that include some currently used by competitive marksmen.
“The wide scope of this total ban, therefore, will not further public safety, but only interfere with lawful recreational pastimes,” he wrote.
Christie expanded on that veto when he was asked during the second gubernatorial debate last month why he chose an absolute veto, rather than a conditional veto.
“I had an agreement with leaders in the Legislature what that ban would look like. They decided for political reasons to make the ban more broad. They need to understand if they break a deal with me, then there are going to be ramifications for that,” Christie said, adding he would have supported a ban on the Barrett 50 caliber long-range rifle. “They didn’t keep their word on this; they decided to go too far and I vetoed the bill.”
Buono, however, said Christie had a different motivation for that veto.