Garden State gun rights advocates worry that New Jersey Democrats will ambush and corner Republican Gov. Christopher J. Christie as they push bills to restrict gun rights as he campaigns for reelection in November.
“Anti-gun legislation is not advancing as quickly as Democrats would like,” said Scott L. Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, the state’s premier second amendment organization and official National Rifle Association state affiliate.
Since January, the Democrat-controlled state legislature has introduced over 80 gun bills; the assembly passed 24 of them in February; and the senate consolidated the count to 14 bills as of May 13, he said. “This doesn’t happen without a fight.”
Reports of bad blood between Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D) and Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean Jr. (R) spilled over onto the floor of the chamber, he said, citing news reports.
Kean blocked several key pieces of the anti-gun rights bill package from passage earlier last week by not consenting to a procedural request from Sweeney to allow emergency amendments, said Bach, who is an attorney and former member of law enforcement.
“In retaliation, Sweeney has blocked all Republican-sponsored bills for the foreseeable future,” he said.
This is a tactical political struggle that does not end here, he said. “It’s just the beginning of a long, chaotic fight that could go deep into the summer depending on when the governor acts on bills that come to his desk.”
Assuming office in January 2010, Christie became the first Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey in 12 years.
Bills that are in technical limbo will take time to finalize and proposals will be debated by legislators into late June, said the NRA board member. “The Democrats would have liked to pass these bills much sooner.”
The closer we get to Election Day, the less likely it is that these bills will be enacted into law, said Bach. “Both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s seat are up for reelection this year.”
Anthony P. Colandro, master instructor and owner at Gun For Hire the largest firearms instruction school in New Jersey, said, “This is an entire waste of tax payer dollars. Our state is in fiscal ruin and the politicians are grandstanding over gun control.”
Gun control policies are ineffective, he said. “We don’t ration gas to limit drunk driving.”
“Limiting firearms takes guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while providing a revolving door for criminals,” said the education and training committee member of the NRA.
State lawmakers have not addressed violent behavior, he said. “They are focusing on a tool instead of focusing on criminals, violence and mental health concerns.”
Colandro, who is a board member of ANJRPC and New Jersey Second Amendment Society, said he supports Christie for reelection.
“The governor is his own man. He can see this legislation as far reaching and unnecessary,” he said.
“However, Christie seems aloof in addressing the topic,” he said. “This legislation forces Christie to take a stand on firearms.”
Frank Jack Fiamingo, president and founder of New Jersey Second Amendment Society, an organization dedicated to protecting the Second Amendment rights of all New Jersey citizens, said, “The various groups across the state are working toward increased gun safety and education.”
Unity is not a problem, he said. “We are unified more than ever before.”
NJ2AS members would like a reasonable solution, he said. “If lawmakers want to write legislation that makes a clear distinction between criminals and law-abiding citizens, we’re all for it.”
The group agrees to the school safety study, increased penalties for criminals involved in trafficking firearms, and restrictions for felons convicted of a violent crime, Fiamingo said. “These laws do not punish legitimate firearms owners.”
“We are not okay with additional laws that restrict law-abiding citizens,” he said. “It makes no sense because those laws do nothing to prevent crime.”
Gun owners and activists were not treated fairly by the establishment, said the semi-retired business owner. “They did not give us enough time to review the legislation.”
Even when it was time to be heard, officials ignored their own constituents who showed up overwhelmingly pro-gun, he said.
“Our concerns and recommendations fell upon deaf ears,” he said.
“I believe that the Democrat majority intends to push through as many laws as they can to dump on Christie’s desk,” said Fiamingo. “The Democrats somehow expect this to hurt Christie’s career.”
In the end, Christie the politician will find a way, Fiamingo said.
“I think Christie will try to find something palatable enough to vote for, and veto everything less palatable,” he said. “I would say veto all of it.”