Christie’s gun control veto stands, as Assembly Dems’ override falls flat
In November, the New Jersey Senate made history voting to overriide one of Gov. Chris Christie’s vetoes for the first time in more than 50 tries.
Thursday, Assembly Democrats failed in their second attempt to override the same measure — meaning the veto stands — but could try again before the legislative session ends in mid-January. The Assembly voted 51-17 with nine abstentions — 54 votes were needed for the override.
“They’re (Republicans) in lockstep with the governor and the governor is running in the presidential primaries. He’s running in Iowa. He’s running in New Hampshire. The New Jersey Republican legislators are not. They’re running in New Jersey,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees) after the vote. “Clearly being in lockstep impacted them in this last election and I don’t know how many of them are going to have to lose to learn that New Jersey wants them to vote with New Jersey’s interest at heart.”
The vetoed bill (S-2360) would have allowed police to tell a judge about any suspicious reports regarding a person trying to expunge his or her mental health records in order to buy a gun. Simply put, the measure was designed to prevent mentally ill people from getting guns.
“I’m not discouraged and disappointed for us (Democrats). I’m discouraged and disappointed for the people of New Jersey. I think everyone in this house will be devastated if a tragedy happens in New Jersey like happened out in California. If the tragedy that happened in California happened in New Jersey we would have passed that bill veto,” Greenwald said.
The original bill passed both the Senate and Assembly unanimously and had several GOP sponsors. The majority of Republicans now say they agree with Christie’s argument that the legislation was not strong enough.
Only four Republicans supported the override try. They were Assembly members Chris Brown (R-Northfield), Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerville), Amy Handlin (R-Red Bank) and Jay Webber (R-Parsippany).
Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne) introduced a competing bill (A-4898) that says any New Jersey residents who applies to have his or her mental health records expunged would have to notify the attorney general, their county prosecutor and their police chief (or the Superintendent of State Police, if there is no police force and chief in the town where the applicant lived at the time of commitment).
Non-state residents would be required to notify the attorney general of the state and the chief of police of the county or municipality in which they live.
Republicans also argued that under the current bill a person could get their mental health records expunged first and then later try to buy a gun.
“My bill closes the loopholes so what is really going on here? If you keep on pushing a bill that you know has a flaw then you have to have another reason why you’re doing it because you’re not doing it for public policy,” Rumana said. “If you’re doing it for public policy or public safety then you’d pass the bill that has no loophole.”
In his veto message, Christie said he was not interested in taking a patchwork approach to dealing with mental health issues and gun violence. On Oct. 4, on ABC’s “Meet the Press,” the governor criticized Democrats after their failed override attempt.
“I’m very concerned about the mental health side of this and I put forward a proposal to the legislature last year and then again just about seven or eight weeks ago in response to a bill they sent saying: Let’s do some tough things on mental health. Let’s make involuntary commitment of people who speak violently easier for doctors,” the governor said.
Christie has vetoed more than 400 bills and Democrats have never overturned one.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.