NJ Democrats push to override Christie gun veto following Orlando shooting
TRENTON — Democrats announced Thursday they’ll seek to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a gun-control measure that seeks to strengthen the existing prohibition on gun possession by people convicted of domestic violence or subject of a restraining order.
The vote in the Senate will be held in the near future, though no specific date was set.
“It’s unfortunately what happened in Orlando. It’s heartbreaking. But if that doesn’t send a signal that we need to do more with our gun laws to protect our citizens, I don’t know what does,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester.
Saturday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were killed has given a renewed impetus, it seems, to gun-control efforts. A nearly 15-hour filibuster in the U.S. Senate ended with a promise of a vote on the issue next week. Then Democrats made the Statehouse announcement.
Sweeney objected vehemently when asked what could be seen as a cynical question.
“It’s not cynical. It’s insulting to me personally, to say that to somebody like myself, to think that somebody would capitalize on a tragedy,” Sweeney said. “Look, we’ve had several pieces of gun legislation, reasonable gun legislation, that this governor vetoed because he was running for president, that had nothing to do with what was reasonable or not. For people to say things like that are ignorant, and it’s insulting.”
Christie told reporters Trenton Democrats are exploiting the shooting.
“Of course. They’re exploiting it,” Christie said. “The president’s exploiting it. They’re exploiting it. Of course they are. That’s what they do.”
“Radical Islamic terrorism is what brought that man into that club with violent intent, not the gun,” Christie said. “His ideology is what brought him into the club. His hatred for the LBGT community is rooted in his radical interpretation of Islam. Yet you don’t hear anybody down the hall talking about that, because it doesn’t suit their political purposes.”
The Senate voted 30-3 for the bill in March – enough support to override a veto, if four of the seven Republicans who backed it then are willing to override. But it would need to pick up support in the Assembly, where it passed 50-17-7 and 54 votes are needed to defeat a veto.
“This bill was passed with overwhelming majorities. Now it’s time to override what was a stupid and insensitive veto,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.
Christie – who has vetoed the bill twice now – said it is largely redundant because domestic abusers already can’t legally possess guns. But backers of the bill say it makes a number of revisions, including a formal process for judges to follow in forcing abusers to surrender their guns.
“You have to surrender your firearms immediately. No ifs, ands or buts,” said Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, D-Gloucester. “Right now, it’s basically up to the discretion of a judge.”
Brett Sabo, a volunteer for the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said it would mean better enforcement of an existing law.
“The stronger the laws are, the most difficult it is for an abuser to find a kink in the system,” Sabo said.
The Assembly also voted Thursday, 46-29-1, to object to a proposed State Police regulation making it easier for people to obtain gun carry permits. The Senate had already passed the resolution. It puts the Christie administration on notice to change or withdraw the rule; if it does not, the Legislature can vote to block the rule.