Fact Check: Christie’s gun rights record

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Is any press good press in a presidential primary slug fest, Save Jerseyans? It’s debatable when your name recognition is already sky-high like Chris Christie‘s is, but with his Iowa numbers down around 1%, I guess it can’t hurt.

On Saturday, it came in the form of a heated exchange at a Christie Iowa town hall over gun control days after the Chattanooga and Louisiana shootings.

“I’m still waiting for one fact from you, one fact about me being anti-gun,” the reliably-punchy Governor responded when pressed by an attendee over his gun rights record according to the Des Moines Register. “Give me one. One fact. Got one?”

“If you haven’t changed your mind once on a single issue in 20 years, then I’ll tell you you’re not a thinking, breathing, living human being,” Christie added.

The truth? From those of us who’ve been following him since long-before the presidential sweepstakes began? Well, for starters, there’s no disagreement from anyone – including the candidate himself – that Chris Christie was, at one time, a less-than-friendly gun rights candidate. He actually ran this mailer (which regular readers and veteran NJ politics have seen before) during a failed 1995 Assembly campaign:

christie assault weapon mailer

christie assault weapon mailer

As we’ve seen with his views on abortion back in 2009 and, more recently, on Common Core, the Governor says he’s moved to the right. Changed his mind. And he’s done some substantive stuff to back it up. But on the issue of so-called “assault weapons” referenced in that 20-year old mailer, the Governor took a states’ rights/holistic approach back in 2013 and refused to weigh in on a federal assault weapon ban (at the 1:46 mark):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lV3pH-UKYG4

Perhaps most alarming for some Second Amendment supporters? He openly opposed national reciprocity for concealed carry permits back in 2011, citing federalism concerns.

Now, Governor Christie typically blames the legislature’s partisan composition for the status of the state’s draconian gun laws. There’s truth to that argument. He’s been more consistently pro-2A in vetoing repeated efforts by the Democrat-dominated state legislature to expand existing gun control/magazine ban measures; he also issued two high-profile pardons for Graves Act-related violations and, on the eve of his presidential campaign launch, moved to fast-track gun purchase permits for victims of domestic violence. 

“The Constitution grants and our courts have affirmed the individual right to bear arms as a fundamental right, and that is all the more important for those who are victims of violence or under threat,” Christie explained at the time. 

I hear you. Granted, expanding “justifiable need” isn’t the same thing as transforming the Garden State from a may issue to a “shall issue,” though a lack of proactivity alone doesn’t exactly make him anti-gun either. I just can’t say in all candor that he’s been actively trying to advance the issue in New Jersey as many of us would like to see.

So deciding whether you consider Governor Christie the best candidate on this issue is one consideration; the NRA clearly has its own opinion, and the feels is unsurprisingly mutual. The truth is, as ever, a bit more nuanced that his supporters and detractors would both have you believe. Is he anti-gun? The most objective conclusion is “no,” that his record is mixed and has changed over time. But GOP primary voters looking for a strongly proactive gun rights advocate don’t have one in New Jersey’s top Republican.

It’s simply not where the former U.S. Attorney’s passions lie, a conclusion with which even the man himself likely wouldn’t disagree.

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7 thoughts on “Fact Check: Christie’s gun rights record

  1. I am not as forgiving as you in describing Christie’s record on gun rights. The first AG who he appointed was a Democrat who was known to be very anti gun and she made NJ’s harsh restrictions on guns even worse. I can’t think of even one pro gun rights appointment he has made since he became governor. Recently Christie talked about changing the administrative code in a very, very limited way to make it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain and carry guns but now weeks later he has done nothing to start the process to change the admin code. He could make some simple changes to the admin code to make NJ’s restrictions more reasonable. Through the admin code, he could end the classification of low powered air guns as firearms and end banning any .22 rimfires as assault weapons. In fact the whole evil features test that bans many popular firearms as assault weapons is in the admin code so singlehandedly he could eliminate it. All things considered I would rate Christie on gun rights as a D minus, just barely above failing

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