State Opts Not to Defend Handgun Law in Suit

Gov. Chris Christie's administration is having a county prosecutor's office rather than the state attorney general defend the state's anti-handgun laws in a case before the state Supreme Court.

A spokesman for the Republican governor, along with the Monmouth County prosecutor's office and attorney general's office all say it is not unusual for a prosecutor's office to defend a law in court.

But Bryan Miller, executive director of the anti-gun violence group Heeding God's Call, tells The Record ( the decision to hand off the case shows Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, does not want to call attention to the state's restrictive gun controls.

"It's against all constitutional principle for chief executives to pick and choose which laws they like and which laws they don't like," he said. "With this particular lack of public safety action, he's made clear that he's much more interested in making the right wing of the Republican Party and the Tea Party happy than he is in protecting public safety."

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak says the governor supports the state's gun restrictions.

Christie signed some new gun control measures last year but not one that would have banned .50-caliber rifles. He had said he supported a ban on the high-caliber rifles but said the version sent to him by lawmakers went too far.

The case being handed off was filed by Richard Pantano, the owner of a landscaping business, who is challenging a provision that people must have a "justifiable need" to get a permit for a handgun.

The state Supreme Court has accepted the case but has not set a date for oral arguments.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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