TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie issued an absolute veto today of the bill that would have barred civilians’ use of .50-caliber weapons.
In discussing A3659/S2178, Christie’s office said in a release that “The bill passed by the legislature seeks to ban a firearm that has reportedly never been used in a crime in New Jersey. It imposes criminal liabilities on all current owners of these firearms, including those who believed that they had properly registered their guns with law enforcement.”
Christie said that his task force earlier this year offered a narrower restriction on such weapons.
“This bill, however, goes well beyond that recommendation and would instead criminalize the ownership of a whole class of firearms that are technically capable of firing any ammunition of 50 caliber or greater,” Christie said in his veto message.
“Indeed, this legislation would ban many of the firearms currently and lawfully used by competitive marksmen for long-range precision target shooting that, due to their size (approximately four to five feet in length) and weight (approximately 35 pounds), are not used by criminals.
“Tellingly, the Legislature points to no instance of this class of firearms being used by even a single criminal in New Jersey. The wide scope of this total ban, therefore, will not further public safety, but only interfere with lawful recreational pastimes.”
Earlier in the day advocates of the bill pointed out that it is a weapon that should be used only by the military, not civilians. In addition to keeping the guns out of terrorists’ hands, they said hobbyists can accidentally fire off one of the weapons whose shells can travel well over a mile.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) blasted the governor for his decision to veto the bill and accused him of bending to the pressure of conservatives.
“Banning these battlefield-style weapons was designed to keep these highly destructive firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals and terrorists. Weaponry designed for the battlefield, that serves no legitimate civilian use, should not be landing on our streets,” she said in a statement.
“Instead the governor has shunned this notion and bowed to the pressure of right wing conservatives,” Oliver said. “The governor’s vetoes today demonstrate a failure in leadership. Instead of doing what’s right for New Jersey, he bowed to the pressures of his political party.”