NJ political reaction to Las Vegas massacre split along party lines

New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Colligan watched mayhem disrupt the lobby at Mandalay Bay Sunday evening when gun fire erupted from a hotel window only three floors above his own room at the Las Vegas casino hotel. Bullets ripped into the crowd of concert goers across the boulevard and terror was caught on smartphones.

“People were panicking, people were running in all different directions. Police officers were coming in from every entrance,” said Colligan.

Back inside the hotel, security rushed guests to safety. Meanwhile, this is how Colligan describe the next series of events.

“The regular police officers from Las Vegas Metro, not the SWAT team, were screaming, ’32nd floor! 32nd floor!’ Police officers came off the street with handguns trying to engage this guy on the 32nd floor. Every one of those law enforcement officers knew they were walking into probably a death sentence, because this guy had a machine gun,” said Colligan.

In fact, shooter Stephen Paddock had about 23 guns and piles of ammo in that hotel room and 19 more guns at home. The massacre triggered a renewed debate over gun control laws — nationwide and in New Jersey. On his monthly radio show on NJ 101.5, Ask the Governor, Gov. Chris Christie noted that the shooter passed federal background checks.

“What are we supposed to do? Sometimes bad things happen. And sometimes there’s nothing we can do to stop it … I just don’t believe that a whole bunch of new gun laws is going to change that reality. I just don’t. In New Jersey, we probably have the second toughest gun laws in America,” said Christie.

Christie’s vetoed bills that would’ve made New Jersey laws stricter, including one restricting the size of gun magazines and another prohibiting 50-caliber rifles. His lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, who’s running to succeed Christie paused a moment to respect Las Vegas shooting victims, but wasn’t ready to discuss gun laws yesterday.

“Let’s find out all of the answers to those questions before we jump to conclusions and have a reaction that may or may not make the public more safe,” said Guadagno.

Guadagno’s opponent, Democrat Phil Murphy, has stated he would sign gun control bills Christie vetoed, adding, “Evasiveness after a mass shooting is part of the Republican playbook. The Republican Party, the NRA and gun manufacturers continually refuse to debate our epidemic of gun violence, while hiding behind our second amendment.”

As for Colligan, he prays for the victims’ families and agrees with the governor about New Jersey gun laws.

“We have a very stringent gun control policy. I can’t walk into Wal-Mart and leave with a handgun. Every town has to do a background check, the state police has to do a background check. If you’re angry and you want to buy a gun, you can’t do it in New Jersey. You can in other states,” he said.

To honor the shooting victims, the president ordered flags flown at half-staff through Friday. On Tuesday he said, “We will be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” but for many, that’s just not soon enough.