Gov. Chris Christie on Friday unveiled a multi-faceted plan to curb gun violence in New Jersey that includes expanding government-funded mental health treatment, requiring parental sign-off before children can buy or rent violent video games, and mandating that ID presented by would-be gun-owners is government-issued.
The Republican's plan also includes a ban on the sale of Barrett .50-caliber semi-automatic sniper rifles, bail reforms that would make it harder for people suspected of violent gun crimes to be released, and provisions to make it easier for courts and health care professionals to involuntarily commit people they consider violent to a psychiatric hospital.
The plan does not address classroom security or propose stricter limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines, which in New Jersey stands at 15 rounds.
“Assuring that there are common-sense safety measures when it comes to purchasing guns, and enforcing appropriate and aggressive criminal penalties for those who violate gun laws is not enough,” Christie said at a news conference at the state Capitol announcing the measures. “This is about violence control. In order to deal with the kind of violence we're seeing, we must address the many contributing factors to that violence.”
Christie announced the proposals one week after receiving a report from a task force he created following the Newton, Conn., school shooting.
The group recommended the periodic renewal of gun licenses and a law banning people from buying guns for others. It also recommended helping those with mental illness.
“As we see unfortunately almost every day on the news, violence is all around us,” Christie said. “We have a responsibility to be the adults in the room on this conversation. Not just to pander to one side of this argument or the other. But we need to be thoughtful and we need to be informed and we need to focus on what steps will actually work, that aren't just emotional responses that will make us feel good for the moment but that will do nothing to actually keep our state safe.”
The governor's proposals come two days after the Senate in Washington rejected expanding background checks to more gun sales. Members of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature proposed their own gun laws, none of which has reached the governor's desk. The Assembly in February fast-tracked 22 bills that place limits on magazine sizes, require mental health clearances and photo IDs for gun permits, and bar anyone on the federal terrorist watch list from obtaining a gun.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, a Democrat who frequently opposes Christie on policy issues, said the governor's proposals would be reviewed.
“One area that particularly concerns me is the governor's notion that most of the debate surrounding this issue should be about how we deal with criminals,” Oliver said. “While I don't disagree that we need to have the strictest penalties in place for those who commit gun crimes, the fact of the matter is that dealing with these criminals is what happens after 20 school children are killed or after a movie theater is shot up. We need to make sure we're doing everything we can to prevent getting to that point, period.”
New Jersey's gun laws are among the strictest in the nation. The state does not allow gun shows, for example, is one of seven states with an assault-weapon ban and one of three with a one-gun-a-month law. New Jersey is also one of 11 states with a waiting period for gun purchases and one of seven with a limit on magazine capacity.
Gun laws could become a thicket for the former federal prosecutor who is considered a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. His opponent in the November governor's race, Sen. Barbara Buono, a progressive Democrat, has been trying for months to make it a campaign issue. In January, she called for a special legislative session to address gun violence and this month questioned Christie's leadership on the issue.
“Leaders lead and they make decisions on gun safety by doing what's best for the kids of New Jersey to keep them safe, and not what's safe in the polls of Iowa,” she said.