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Sunday, August 18, 2013 - 7:23pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill Friday that would ban certain long-range rifles and sent several gun-related bills back to the state Legislature for changes, his office announced.
The Republican governor, who has worked with the Legislature on a number of bills to curb gun violence this year (he signed 10 last week), did not approve a proposed ban on firearms with a caliber of .50 or greater, saying it criminalizes a firearm that has not been used in crimes.
Christie's gun-violence task force had recommended earlier this year a limit on future sales of a specific type of firearm: the Barrett .50-caliber long-range rifle.
But the bill passed by the Democratically-controlled Legislature "goes well beyond that recommendation," he said in the veto statement. The bill makes illegal "the ownership of a whole class of firearms that are technically capable of firing any ammunition of .50 caliber or greater."
Many of those firearms - which can be four to five feet in length and weigh 35 pounds - are used by competitive marksmen for long-range precision target shooting.
"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," he said.
Mark Kelly, who founded a pro-gun control group with his wife and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, blasted Christie's decision.
"He listened to the voices of the few over the many, heeding a handful of powerful gun lobbyists instead of thousands of New Jerseyans," Kelly said in a statement released Saturday by his group, Americans for Responsible Solutions. "He put political ambition over public safety. His veto may cost lives."
The governor, who's considered a potential GOP presidential contender in 2016, also called for a number of other measures in the bills he sent back. His recommendations include:
-- Requiring a New Jersey firearms identification card for the purchase of all ammunition and reasonably restricting shipments of ammunition to the address specified on that identification card;
-- Creating a new criminal offense for any gun owner allowing a minor access to a firearm which results in injury or death;
-- Requiring physicians and screeners overseeing involuntary commitments to inquire about gun ownership;
-- Requiring all local law enforcement entities to distribute a pamphlet explaining the best practices for gun ownership, and a list of available courses for basic and advances firearms training that should be distributed at the time a permit or identification card is issued.
In 2011, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ranked New Jersey as the state with the second-toughest gun laws in the country.