While Governor Touts Gun Rights, Firearms Industry Has Little Impact on NJ Economy

John Reitmeyer | February 2, 2016 | Politics
As candidate Christie makes it key issue in NH, report shows home state ranks near bottom nationwide in ‘gun industry dependency’

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New Jersey ranks among the U.S. states that are the least dependent on the gun industry when it comes to jobs, firearm sales and several other gun-related categories, according to a new nationwide study.

But New Hampshire — the crucial primary state that Gov. Chris Christie has made a central focus of his longshot bid for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination — is an entirely different story.

While New Jersey placed third-to-last, behind only Delaware and Rhode Island, in state-by-state gun-industry dependency rankings released yesterday by the personal-finance website WalletHub.com, New Hampshire came in near the top, ranking seventh.

And in the specific categories of total firearms-industry jobs per-capita and total firearms-industry output per-capita, New Hampshire topped all other states and the District of Columbia in the website’s study.

The research was conducted by WalletHub in the wake of President Obama’s issuance last month of several executive orders aimed at curbing the country’s high rate of gun violence. The website also cited statistics that show the firearms and ammunition industry contributed more than $40 billion to the national economy in 2014.

But the state-by-state rankings also underscore the importance of the gun industry in New Hampshire just as all eyes are now turning to that state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary following yesterday’s Iowa caucuses.

Many political analysts believe Christie, after a poor showing in Iowa, will likely need to win or at least finish among the top GOP candidates in New Hampshire to continue his presidential campaign. Christie was scheduled to be back in the Granite State today for a series of campaign events in advance of the Feb. 9 primary.

To be sure, Christie is facing several big challenges in his bid to win in New Hampshire next week, including the popularity of businessman Donald Trump. But overcoming a record on gun-ownership rights that many primary voters there may view as not being strong enough also remains one of those challenges.

For example, an online ad released last month by a super PAC supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich– who has moved past Christie in several recent polls of New Hampshire GOP primary voters – attacked Christie for having shifted his positions on several key gun-control issues. The ad concluded by calling Christie “Wrong on guns” and “Wrong for New Hampshire.”

One of the issues featured in the ad was Christie’s support in the 1990s for New Jersey’s assault-weapons ban. The ad also made clear that Christie’s gubernatorial campaign in 2009 said he supported all of New Jersey’s existing gun laws at the time.

But following his re-election in 2013 — and as he started to look more closely at running for president — Christie has become more critical of New Jersey’s gun laws and has issued several vetoes when lawmakers have sought to enact tighter gun-control measures.

For example, last summer, on the eve of his presidential campaign kickoff, Christie announced the formation of a three-person commission to look for ways to make New Jersey’s gun laws more in sync with constitutional gun-ownership rights.

That panel ended up recommending several changes. In a report released in late December, it called for more even application of the state’s gun-permit laws and an expedited gun-carry application process for victims of domestic violence.

Also last summer, Christie vetoed legislation that sought to make it harder for people with a history of mental illness to buy a gun in New Jersey. Lawmakers tried to override that veto, with the Senate mustering up enough votes to do so, but the [link:https://www.njspotlight.com/stories/15/12/03/assembly-fails-to-override-controversial-christie-veto-of-gun-safety-bill/|Assembly vote fell short.

Christie in 2014 also rejected legislation inspired by the late 2012 slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that sought to limit gun-magazine capacity in New Jersey to 10 rounds. Instead, he said in a veto message that there should be more focus on mental-health issues.

“Time and again, the headlines surrounding instances of mass violence paint an unmistakable portrait of individuals in crisis falling through the broken safety nets of screening, treatment, and commitment,” Christie said in the veto message.

And last month, among the dozens of bills that Christie pocket-vetoed during the transition from the last two-year legislative session into the current one was another high-profile gun-control measure. The bill would have required gun stores in New Jersey to eventually stock alongside conventional weapons so-called “smart guns” that utilize technology to limit their use to a registered owner. Bill sponsors are now advancing a new version of the same legislation in the wake of the governor’s veto.

Christie, during a recent interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” attempted to explain his shift to the right on gun issues. He said his new views have been inspired by frequent trips across the country, first as chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2014, and more recently as a presidential hopeful.

“I have learned a great deal about this,” Christie said during the Jan. 10 interview. “And my actions as governor of New Jersey have been exactly where I think they need to be.”