New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) late Friday vetoed a bill to ban a powerful model of assault weapon that he initially advocated in the wake of last December's elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
The bill that passed New Jersey's Democratic legislature would have prohibited the Barrett .50 caliber long-range rifle. Although Christie this spring proposed a ban on future sales of the firearm, he vetoed the ultimate bill because he said it went too far, requiring residents who already own the rifle to give theirs up.
In a veto message to the General Assembly, Christie wrote that the bill "will not further our collective fight against crime, but serve only to confuse law-abiding gun owners with the threat of imprisonment for lawful recreation. I cannot approve of that result."
Christie is running for reelection this November in a Democratic-leaning state that already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. But as he eyes a presidential run in 2016, Christie must balance the political imperatives in New Jersey with those of the Republican Party nationally.
Christie's veto -- which his office waited until after 6 p.m. on Friday to announce -- drew swift and sharp criticism from gun-control advocates. State Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D) called Christie's veto "a failure in leadership," saying he was seeking to appease the Republican base.
"Banning these battlefield-style weapons was designed to keep these highly destructive firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals and terrorists," Oliver said in a statement. She added, "Instead, the governor has shunned this notion and bowed to the pressure of right wing conservatives."
Christie also effectively gutted a second bill, pushed by Democrats, that would have overhauled the state's firearms permitting system by linking law enforcement records with gun purchases through a digital smart card ID. Christie said the idea is well-intentioned, but said the technology did not exist to make it work.
Last week, Christie signed 10 gun-control measures that the state legislature passed following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, which killed 20 small children and six educators.