Why Congress isn’t passing new gun laws, Chris Christie edition

September 23, 2013

There has been relatively little movement toward a new gun debate in Congress, despite the shootings of a dozen people just blocks from Capitol Hill last week.

And there's a reason. Take Chris Christie, for example.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R)  (Mel Evans/AP)

Earlier this year, Christie vetoed three pieces of gun legislation passed by the state legislature — a ban on the .50-caliber Barrett rifle, a bill that expanded background checks and gun safety training, and a bill requiring the state to send information on lost and discarded guns to a federal database.

(The latter two vetoes were "conditional" vetoes — i.e. Christie asked for changes to be made before he would sign it. The legislature complied on the third bill, and Christie signed it.)

A new poll from Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics shows all three of these bills have broad public support. The first gets the backing of 63 percent, while the other two are supported by about eight in 10 New Jerseyans. And they're not casual about their support either; a majority say they support each bill "strongly."

This isn't terribly surprising. New Jersey, after all, is hardly fertile ground for the National Rifle Association. The same poll shows just 16 percent of people come from households with guns — compared to 34 percent nationally. If any state would support new gun laws, it would probably be the Garden State.

So what kind of political price has Christie payed for vetoing three vastly popular pieces of gun legislation in New Jersey?

Virtually none.

The very same poll showed that Christie continues to have a sky-high approval rating, with 66 percent of New Jerseyans approving of him and just 31 percent disapproving. He's also cruising to reelection this year, with polls showing him leading by between 20 and 30 points.

Now, it's important to note the Christie has signed other gun legislation into law. And it's also clear that Christie's standing has very little to do with his positions on gun control and much more to do with other things, including his response to Hurricane Sandy, etc.

But that's precisely the point. The fact is that gun control supporters are significantly more casual about their position and significantly less willing to exact a political price than are gun rights activists.

If there was one Republican who should pay a price for opposing new gun measures, it would be Christie — especially given how high his approval rating was (the further to fall) and the state he comes from.

The fact that he hasn't speaks volumes about why gun control supporters can't get Republicans on board.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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