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The Christie gun control conundrum of a Red Governor in a Blue State

Written By | Mar 24, 2014

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2014 —  Chris Christie, embattled governor of the Garden State, is facing an important decision concerning the new gun control legislation fast tracked through the New Jersey legislature: the Governor has to weigh the impact signing it or vetoing it has on his prospects for one day finding himself behind the Resolute Desk.

The bill would bring down the magazine capacity limit in New Jersey from fifteen rounds to ten rounds. This covers weapons that have both detachable and fixed magazines, which would expand the banned gun list in the Garden State dramatically. The new ban would include some very popular and widely held .22 rifles which have fixed tube magazines with higher capacities than the new gun legislation would allow. In addition, there is no grandfathering clause or period of amnesty. Essentially upon the signage of this law, and its implementation date, those who hold these weapons would be guilty of second degree felonies.

Proponents of the bill defend the legislation with claims that it would help curb gun violence in New Jersey. But what is really behind this move? Criminals don’t exactly check their weapons to make sure they comply with the law. Certainly they don’t read up on current firearm legislation and upon learning that their guns are no longer in compliance, line up to turn in their illicit items. It does not work that way, but that is a dead horse beaten far too often. We all know that law breakers don’t follow laws.

So what else could be behind this newest gun control push in New Jersey?

We all know that New Jersey, despite their Red governor, is a blue state. And there is nothing more in vogue in Blue states than treating gun owners like criminals. Could this be just another push by Democrats in an anti-gun state making their latest anti-gun suit?

Perhaps, but that is not the only reason.

Chris Christie is their target. Many among Democratic leadership still believe that he is the best hope the Republicans have to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016, and any way you slice it any action taken by the governor in this case is damaging.

If he signs the bill, he will run into a world of problems. He is already seen as a RINO (Republican in name only) by much of the Conservative right, and based on his previous actions towards guns in New Jersey, signing this would only cement his categorization as an Establishment man and not a friend of American Conservatives. In addition, it will grant him the ire of the NRA who will use this as an excuse to throw their considerable weight behind Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz. During the primaries, pro-gun candidates will score points with Conservative voters by painting Christie as an anti-gunner and enemy of the Second Amendment. All of these situations would be detrimental to his 2016 prospects, and may cost him the primary bid.

Not signing it has an entirely different set of problems for the New Jersey governor. If he uses his veto power and stops the bill then the Democrats will use it to drive a wedge between him and moderate minded voters and independents who are still on the fence regarding Christie. It is not enough on its own to put a bad taste in the mouth of potential Democrat voters, but many have had enough bad bites of Christie goulash to choke down much more. In addition to the voters shying away from him as a result, the liberal media and the Democratic leadership will eat him alive for failing to sign this legislation into law.

There will be interviews and news reports about how Chris Christie is in the pocket of the NRA, how he does not care about the lives of children, and how he vetoed it to assuage the angry mob of right wing nutjobs banging down his door to tear up the law. If he wins the primary, he will have to answer accusations during debates from his Democratic opponent of why he failed to sign into law gun legislation that would have lowered crime in New Jersey. Again not enough to knock him off the tracks, but enough to make for a bumpy ride.

In the end, this is a very well thought out move by the Democratic legislature. Christie was, and still may be, the best hope of beating Hillary Clinton in 2016. But the problem is that by signing this bill it pushes him away from the Republican voters he needs to reach the 2016 election. It won’t happen if he is seen as soft against the gun-control lobby. If he doesn’t sign it, it will simply provide his enemies with cannon fodder when he eventually runs in 2016.


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a BA from Catholic University in DC and an MA form George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, both in history. When he not getting his hands dirty in 2nd Amendment and firearms news he is doing his best to take a crack at some drive-by political analysis. And every now and then he may or may not review a low end bourbon for the tax write off. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Back Porch Politics.