Chris Christie Vetoes Ammunition Limit Bill, Focuses on Helping the Mentally Ill

gov-chris-christieEditor’s Note: Chris Christie is a true leader and problem-solver. It would have been easy for him to gain support in his left-leaning state by signing a superficial gun-control bill. However, he stuck to his guns and called for better care for the mentally ill. 

Gov. Chris Christie today vetoed a gun control bill that would have reduced the permitted size of ammunition magazines, saying it would do nothing to reduce gun violence.

“This is the very embodiment of reform in name only. It simply defies common sense to believe that imposing a new and entirely arbitrary number of bullets that can be lawfully loaded into a firearm will somehow eradicate, or even reduce, future instances of mass violence,” Christie said. “Nor is it sufficient to claim that a ten-round capacity might spare an eleventh victim.”

The move came less than an hour after gun control advocates — including parents of two children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — dropped off at Christie’s office 55,000 signatures of people from around the country, including 10,000 from New Jersey, urging him to sign the measure.

Christie conditionally vetoed the legislation (A2006), but he did more than propose changes. He completely rewrote it, eliminating the ammunition capacity reduction and suggesting in its place several changes to the state’s mental health system that he first proposed more than a year ago.

“I will not support such a trivial approach to the sanctity of human life, because this is not governing. Governing is confronting problems,” Christie said in his veto message.

The bill, which was passed by the Legislature mostly along party lines in May, would have reduced the permitted size of ammunition magazines from 15 rounds to 10.

“We want him to know that we are watching, we are aware and we are engaged,” Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the shooting, said at a Statehouse news conference this afternoon. “Governor Christie, these 55,000 people are asking you. The State of New Jersey is asking you. We are asking you and I am asking you as a father to a father, please sign A2006.”

But instead of a magazine size reduction, Christie proposed a new standard for involuntary commitment of patients who are not necessarily deemed dangerous “but whose mental illness, if untreated, could deteriorate to the point of harm.”

Christie also proposed new standards for recommending patients for involuntary outpatient treatment, “streamlining” patient transfers between inpatient and outpatient programs, new training programs for first responders likely to encounter unstable people with “modern techniques for de-escalation,” and to require people forced to undergo mental health treatment to demonstrate “adequate medical evidence of suitability” if they want to get a firearms purchase identification card.

The changes were first proposed by Christie in April 2013, but did not advance in the Legislature. Christie said Democrats who pushed the gun control legislation took “the easier path.”

Although Christie signed some gun-related bills pushed by Democrats last year in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, he either vetoed or significantly altered more far-reaching bills, including a ban on .50 caliber rifles that he had previously called for himself.

Christie, who is considered a likely contender for president in 2016, has faced pressure from gun rights organizations, including one in New Hampshire that warned last year that he would have a hard time winning the state’s first-in-the-nation Republican presidential primary if he signed gun control bills.

The bill was the last major piece of gun control legislation Democrats pushed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. Originally, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who represents a competitive legislative district, refused to move it even though it had passed the Assembly. But after he won a new four-year term in November, he agreed to put it up for a vote in the upper house, saying lobbying from Sandy Hook families had changed his mind.

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