New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was lauded by conservatives after his July 2 veto
of a gun control bill to cap magazine rounds but in the past, the Republican held a moderate stance when it comes to gun rights over the years, The Daily Beast
Christie's move to veto the bill, despite the pleas of two parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, came days before Christie heads to Nashville, Tennessee, this week for the annual Republican Governor's Association convention, The Daily Beast said.
The move could give Christie, who serves as the association's chairman, some extra credibility among conservatives. However, his record on guns, which includes a push to ban assault weapons, tells critics something different.
"Most people in the Second Amendment arena don’t believe him, because he’s been on both sides of the issue," a former Christie running mate, Richard Merkt, told The Daily Beast. "I think, in his core belief system, he is not a supporter of the Second Amendment. Anything he says in favor of the Second Amendment or in favor of a Second Amendment issue may not sound like it really comes from the heart, because I don’t think it does."
Christie, explaining his decision to veto the bill, called the measure "reform in name only" that would not stop future incidents of mass violence, and said he would not support "such a trivial approach to the sanctity of human life."
Kevin Roberts, his spokesman, told The Daily Beast that Christie "believes and has consistently stated that we must act to prevent the types of horrible tragedies suffered by having effective gun control laws in place while addressing the underlying causes of violence."
Christie is also under fire for not meeting with Mark Darden and Nicole Hockley, whose children were killed by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook. The two were in Trenton to speak in favor of the bill, which would have lowered the cap on magazine rounds from 15 rounds to 10. They brought signatures from people around the country, and were told that he was not available to meet with them when they dropped off the petitions.
A Christie source told The Daily Beast he was not in the State House when the pair asked for a meeting. However, later he said he didn't meet with them because he'd already vetoed the bill.
The parents called his refusal "a cowardly political move" and called the veto a "blow to the memories of our children," according to The Daily Beast.
Christie ran his first two campaigns on supporting the state's assault weapons ban, which has been in place since 1990. In April 1993, when he announced he was running for the State Senate, he told spoke out against repealing the ban, saying "in today’s society no one needs a semiautomatic assault weapon...We already have too many firearms in our communities."
In 1995, when Christie ran for the State Assembly, he and Merkt sent out fliers attacking opponents and calling repealing the ban "crazy" and "radical."
"He was basically kind of mocking the Second Amendment people," Merkt told The Daily Beast. "I think he thought the Second Amendment issue was kind of a joke, and was not significant."
Once Christie became governor, he said he would strictly enforce the state's gun laws. calling them "some of the most aggressive in the country."
His public efforts included slamming what he called a "reprehensible" ad in 2013, in which the National Rifle Association featured President Barack Obama's teenaged daughters.
"Don’t be dragging people’s children into this, he said. "It’s wrong and I think it demeans [the NRA] and makes them less of a valid trusted source of information on the real issues that confront this debate."
Merkt said that he is now a gun-rights advocate, but he thinks Christie says "whatever he thinks is necessary and expedient at the time, depending on the audience that he's addressing. And right now, he knows that he has to try to resuscitate his appeal to the conservative base of the party."
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