Published December 20, 2015
Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Friday vetoed a ban on .50-caliber rifles that was vigorously opposed by firearms rights advocates and gutted a proposal overhauling the state’s gun permit law.
Christie said the permit changes adopted by lawmakers were impractical because they rely on technology that hasn’t been developed.
“None of the technology necessary for this system exists. … the smartcard called for by this bill cannot be implemented now or any time in the foreseeable future,” Christie said in his conditional veto message.
The centerpiece of the bill, sponsored by Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, linked firearms purchases and law enforcement records into a digital smartcard maintained by the state police, Motor Vehicle Commission, mental health facilities and ammunition retailers.
Sweeney, in a statement, called the bill “well-crafted” and said it would have been a model for the nation.
But Christie likened the measure to a 2002 law requiring handguns be fitted with personal recognition technology to prevent non-recognized users from firing them. He said the technology still doesn’t exist 11 years later.
He left intact portions of the bill requiring mental health providers to inquire about gun ownership and making criminals out of people responsible for gun tragedies that happen when children accidently gets guns.
The proposed ban on military-style .50-caliber rifles went beyond his task force-recommended ban on sales of Barrett .50-caliber long-range rifles and, he said, would have unduly restricted lawful recreational pastime activities.
“Tellingly, the Legislature points to no instance of this class of firearms being used by even a single criminal in New Jersey,” Christie said.
California has a complete ban on .50-caliber rifles, Connecticut bans specific models and Maryland has some restrictions.
Earlier Friday, gun control advocate Bryan Miller took a disabled .50-caliber sniper rifle to the Statehouse to demonstrate its destructive capacity.
“These are military weapons designed and manufactured to destroy material targets such as chemical plants, refineries, chemical and rail tanks and passenger aircraft, targets that abound in New Jersey,” he said. “A potential attack with a .50-caliber weapon could have a catastrophic environmental impact in the Garden State.”
The conditionally vetoed bills now head back to the Legislature.
It was the second week in a row that Christie took action on gun-related legislation adopted by lawmakers in response to the deadly shooting rampage last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Lawmakers have taken up more than two dozen bills. Of the 15 sent to Christie, he has signed 11, including one on Friday creating a school task force.
Among those Christie signed previously was one that would bar people on terrorist watch lists from being able to buy guns. The one he rejected outright would have barred the state from investing in companies with firearms or ammunition businesses.
After Newtown, Christie formed a task force to deal with guns, mental health and media violence, and it recommended several measures similar to ones adopted by lawmakers.
But on Friday, Christie complained in one veto message that lawmakers were haphazard in their approach to gun violence and didn’t heed the more comprehensive recommendations of the task force.