Christie Moves To Loosen Gun Regulations in NJ

Matt Katz, WNYC News | December 21, 2015 | Katz on Christie

On the eve of his presidential campaign, New Jersey governor Chris Christie promised that he would create a commission to look at whether the state’s gun laws were constitutional. He said he’d announce the members of the commission in just days or weeks, and he promised to have a report back to the public by September. 

Christie’s gun record is a major liability for him in the GOP nomination for president — he first ran for office in the 1990s on a platform that called for banning certain weapons — so his announcement last June was seen as an overture to conservatives in pro-gun states like New Hampshire.

But for months, the governor’s spokespeople repeatedly refused to tell reporters what happened with the commission — not even the names of those appointed, and even in the face of criticism from a gun rights group. 

On Monday afternoon, while the governor was campaigning in New Hampshire, his office issued what has become an increasingly rare policy announcement from the Statehouse. The Firearm Permitting and Purchase Study Commission, made up of three attorneys with ties to the governor, offered three proposed changes to state regulations. The governor said he was immediately accepting the recommendations, which do not require approval from the Democratic Legislature. That means these changes to gun laws will soon go into effect in New Jersey:

  • Gun carry regulations will be broadened to apply to more people who say they need to protect themselves with firearms. Language will be added to allow those who say they face “serious threats” to qualify for handgun-carrying permits. 
  • Certain out-of-state residents passing through New Jersey with firearms lawfully owned in their home states will not be subject to prosecution under New Jersey law. Christie has previously pardoned people who have been charged in New Jersey with guns that they carried legally elsewhere.
  • The Attorney General will crack down on towns that are too slow in approving gun permit applications for guns and ID cards. The commission said that local officials and police inconsistently apply the law for those seeking to purchase weapons.

The commission’s full report can be read here.

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire hours after the announcement on Monday night, Christie was asked about how to control gun violence by a man who had witnessed a mass shooting. 

“We’ve got so many on the books now,” Christie said of gun laws. “They’re kind of like cotton candy. You’ve got a little sugar high five minutes after you ate it, and then you don’t remember you ate it. Because it does nothing for you.”