Gov. Bully out-bullied by gun lobby

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) actions last week were, at best, ill-timed, and, at worst, a display of craven cowardice. 

It appears the bully has finally been out-bullied, by the gun lobby that is. 

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How else can one explain his ill-timed and downright hypocritical veto last week of legislation that would have reduced the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds?

With the bill sitting on his desk, parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School came to New Jersey’s Statehouse to drop off tens of thousands of petitions imploring Christie to sign it. 

Literally only minutes after these parents left, Christie vetoed this legislation that I sponsored in one of the more faint-hearted acts one will ever see from an elected official. It was also among the most cold-hearted. 

Christie’s veto statement said support for the bill amounted to “grandstanding” and employing “empty rhetoric.” 

He then doubled down on his callousness this week at a press conference, essentially saying this legislation won’t save everyone.  Unfortunately he missed the point: It may save some.  But, by Christie’s indefensible and inherently flawed logic, if we can’t save every person, we shouldn’t save anyone.

Contrary to the governor’s belief, this legislation wasn’t grandstanding. This wasn’t empty rhetoric. This was advice from the parents who know more about this issue than any of us will ever want to know.

The Sandy Hook parents told us this was the single most important gun safety measure we could pass to stop killers from turning into killing machines.  In their own words: “Smaller magazines would have saved more lives at Sandy Hook Elementary, possibly even the lives of our own children.”

It’s no wonder the governor refused to meet with these parents last week.  I can’t imagine looking one of them in the eyes while trying to justify his argument.

Furthermore, this bill wasn’t something thrown together as a feel-good measure.

In fact, this legislation was in response to the horrific tragedy in Arizona where an assailant used a large capacity ammunition magazine to kill six people and injure 13 others, including former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D). Among those murdered was 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was shot that day by the 13th bullet.

As Giffords’ husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, told a U.S. Senate committee, if the shooter hadn’t had access to a high-capacity magazine and had any problem quickly reloading with 10-round magazines, “Christina Taylor Green would be alive today.”

This legislation replicated the former national standard, and national law enforcement leaders have supported banning high-capacity magazines.

Jim Johnson, the Baltimore Police Chief and chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “Certainly, we believe that limiting a magazine to 10 rounds, what was in place from ‘94 to 2004, is wise and certainly could save lives in America.” New York’s top cop, Bill Bratton, said, “High-capacity ammunition magazines were designed as weapons of war.”

Despite the support of law enforcement experts and the pleas from families unfortunately too intimately acquainted with gun violence, Christie took the path that can best be described with words used in his own veto statement, “difficult choices are brushed aside … uncomfortable topics are left unexplored.”

I would imagine signing this bill would have been a very uncomfortable topic to have with conservative voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Apparently, avoiding such a conversation is Christie’s priority, as opposed to protecting New Jersey. This is political expediency at its worst, considering the governor is headed to campaign in Iowa very shortly.

Christie has worked tirelessly to create an image as a bold leader, but the reality is quite different, and it’s becoming clearer every day. 

Leadership does not include pandering to far-off voters instead of those you are sworn to protect, nor does it include putting rabid personal ambition above public safety.

In other words, leadership is not Chris Christie. 

Greenwald has served in the New Jersey General Assembly since 1996. He has been Assembly majority leader since 2012.