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Another View -- Scott L. Bach: Chris Christie’s strong record supporting N.J. gun owners

December 22. 2015 10:28PM

When evaluating an elected official’s record on guns, I am much more interested in what they do than what they say. Politicians pay lip service to the Second Amendment, but until they are battle-tested, their real posture is an open question. That question has already been answered about Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey — one of the most hostile environments for gun rights in America. Gov. Christie’s record of action on the Second Amendment is strong.

As executive director of New Jersey’s state rifle and pistol association, I am in a good position to know. After years of bruising legislative battles, I have watched Gov. Christie repeatedly save New Jersey’s law-abiding firearms owners from gun bans, magazine bans and absurd regulatory schemes from politicians who speak openly about confiscating guns.

New Jersey isn’t like New Hampshire or most other states when it comes to gun rights. Embedded deep within every branch of government, for decades, is a culture that actively delays, disparages and denies Second Amendment rights, viciously persecuting gun owners under a tangled legal web that is reflexively upheld by the courts. The hostility toward gun rights is palpable and enthusiastically reinforced by the media. Lawmakers supporting gun rights are savaged and targeted for defeat.

Maybe that’s why Chris Christie is the first governor in New Jersey history ever to veto a gun ban or magazine ban. Maybe it’s why Christie is the first governor ever to pardon citizens prosecuted just for possessing legally-owned firearms (he pardoned four). Maybe it’s why no Garden State governor before Christie ever used executive powers to facilitate carry permits for those in danger, or to convene a commission to develop other executive actions addressing widespread permitting abuses. Or why Christie is the first New Jersey governor ever to acknowledge the difference between legislation targeting gun rights versus gun criminals.

Gov. Christie isn’t perfect, but he has the strongest Second Amendment record of any governor in New Jersey history, and the state’s gun owners are very grateful for it. That point is not debatable.

Without Gov. Christie’s intervention, New Jersey would now have bans on 50 caliber firearms and ammunition magazines over 10 rounds. The state would have a giant digital licensing bureaucracy where big brother could switch off gun rights by pushing a button. It would have an expanded statewide “assault” firearms ban, and a ban on every conventional handgun ever made courtesy of New Jersey’s “smart gun” law. Gov. Christie blocked both.

Without Gov. Christie, there would be no new confidentiality law protecting gun owners’ personal information, and police would be forced to compromise federally protected gun trace data. There would be no state bear hunt addressing increasing bear attacks (including a fatal mauling last year), and no new apprentice youth hunting program preserving outdoor traditions. And there would be no new executive actions from a Christie-appointed commission addressing New Jersey’s medieval mistreatment of gun owners.

Gov. Christie has taken a liberal media pounding for these actions. Through his vetoes, executive actions and pardons, Christie disrupted the gun ban agenda in New Jersey despite intense public pressure, while sweeping bans were passed in New York, Connecticut and Colorado. Under cover of these events, it would have been easy for Christie to bow to public pressure and overreact, rather than taking disciplined, logical action defending gun rights.

I am neutral in the Republican presidential primary. But as a political observer I have watched some commentators ignore Gov. Christie’s record of action and proclaim him hostile to gun rights for things he supposedly said 20 years ago.

What matters most to me as a gun rights leader is what a lawmaker does, not what he says. And while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts.

It is irrefutable that Gov. Christie has saved New Jersey gun owners from legislative catastrophe again and again, at their most vulnerable moment. Now he is taking unprecedented executive action on systemic permitting abuses. Gun owners want Gov. Christie to continue these steps for as long as he holds office. Those who refuse to give him credit where credit is due erode the incentive to keep defending gun rights in a place where it is wildly unpopular to do so.

Scott L. Bach, Esq. is executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs and a member of the NRA board of directors. The opinions expressed are his own.

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