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In Wake of Mass Killing, Gubernatorial Candidates Talk Gun Control

Guadagno struggles to clarify her beliefs, Murphy offers eight-point platform on website. Independents’ opinions run gamut of possibilities

guadagno
Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno

The questions of gun rights and gun control are once again in debate, after Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. A local retiree used multiple assault weapons to fire down into a crowded music festival, leaving 59 dead and at least 520 more injured.

Positions among the larger field of candidates that includes independents run the gamut from the broadening of Second Amendment rights to tighter controls on guns.

With New Jersey’s gubernatorial election little more than a month away, both major-party candidates commented on the slaughter.

Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno, the Republican, said she considered canceling a scheduled morning press conference in Boonton because of the shooting but decided to go ahead because “focusing on the issues in a campaign that are as stark as the ones we face here in this election is appropriate.” She asked for a moment of silence for the victims before making her scheduled remarks, promoting her property-tax relief plan and criticizing her opponent’s proposed tax and minimum wage increases.

‘Don’t jump to conclusions’

When asked about her thoughts on guns in light of the shooting, Guadagno said, “Before we jump to any conclusion … before we go too much further, let’s find out what happened. Let’s find out whether that was a legal gun or not a legal gun.” She continued, “Before we jump to conclusions and have a reaction that may or may not make the public more safe, the goal here is to keep the public safe and so let’s do that … let’s let law-enforce officers have a chance to find out what really happened first.”

Press secretary Ricky Diaz ended the press conference there. When reporters pressed Guadagno further, she said, “Let’s save that for another day,” and then, on her way to her car, went on to answer a question about the latest poll numbers in the race.

It is unclear where Guadagno stands on most gun laws, except that she has said she supports the Second Amendment. Her website outlines no positions.

‘Gut-wrenching’

Democrat Phil Murphy issued a statement calling the shooting “both heart-rending and gut-wrenching” and a “senseless act of domestic terrorism.” He added, “This can't numb us, but must move us to find answers and commonsense solutions."

Phil Murphy
Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez, Pool
Phil Murphy

Murphy has an extensive platform on gun control on his website, which states, “the gun violence epidemic is nothing short of a public health crisis.”

He says the evidence clearly shows that the states with the lowest rates of gun violence have some of the strongest controls in the nation, while those with the weakest rules have the highest rates of gun violence. Murphy calls for stricter but “sensible” regulations, while “still preserving Second Amendment rights for law-abiding residents.”

His eight-point platform would:

  • Enact “commonsense” laws that Gov. Chris Christie vetoed, including a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines and a prohibition on gun ownership for gang members and domestic abusers.

  • Mandate gun safety training for anyone seeking to buy a firearm.

  • Require all gun retailers to carry at least one smart gun once they become available.

  • Have the state report in a timely fashion all mental illness episodes to the national background check database.

  • Tax gun sales to fund law enforcement, drug treatment centers, and mental health services.

  • Make it a crime to sell a gun in the state without conducting a background check and require people to register all firearms kept in the state.

  • Work with neighboring states on gun-violence prevention.

  • Direct the attorney general to enforce all gun laws, including those that prohibit the illegal transportation of guns into New Jersey from out of state.

Daniel Bryan, a Murphy spokesman, was critical of Guadagno’s refusal to discuss her views on gun-related measures.

No time to wait

"Now has to be the time to talk about sensible gun-safety measures …We cannot wait until the next tragedy to have this conversation,” he said.

Later in the afternoon Diaz did not respond to a request for further details about Guadagno’s position on gun rights and gun control, and whether she supported Christie’s vetoes of the limit on ammunition magazines, smart guns, prohibiting those that have made terroristic threats from getting guns, a ban on 50-caliber rifles, and other measures.

The only specifics Guadagno has given were during the primary debates, when she said she would support amending state law to allow for reciprocity for concealed-carry permits from other states, which would mean that someone licensed to carry a concealed weapon in another state could also do so in New Jersey without applying for a permit.

At least one of the independents, Libertarian Peter Rohrman, agrees with her on that.

On his website, Rohrman pledges to defend the public’s right to bear arms.

“Every human being has the right to defend themselves,” his website states. “Let’s make New Jersey a concealed-carry state and stop putting law-abiding gun owners in jail. Instead let’s use our resources to prosecute violent offenders.”

Standing by the Second Amendment

Matthew Riccardi, the candidate of the Constitution Party, said he recognizes the terrible tragedy in Las Vegas but stands by the Second Amendment, saying people “should have that right” and it “should not be infringed upon” by the government. He said the decline in leadership and morality among the nation’s leaders are to blame for gun violence.

“We don’t need to call for gun control, we need to call for self-control,” he said. “We shouldn’t politicize events like this.”

Two other independents hold the opposite view.

Gina Genovese said she supports the state’s current strong gun laws and also would support a better defined “justifiable need” standard a person would have to meet in order to be able to carry a handgun, as embodied in A-3689, which Christie vetoed last month.

The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, the Green Party candidate, supports background checks and closing loopholes in gun control laws, . However, he said, the state needs to make sure it does not pass any legislation that would unfairly target minorities. He said a “bias assessment” needs to be part of all gun-safety initiatives.

“Many of the bills that Gov. Christie has vetoed need to be reviewed to consider their racial impact, and, if cleared through that process, need to be signed into law,” Kaper-Dale said.

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