Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, vetoed a bill that would have rolled back a controversial gun law.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has effectively vetoed a measure that would have rolled back a law that gun rights advocates fiercely oppose.

The law, passed in 2002, mandates that all handguns in the state be smart guns within three years of one going on sale anywhere in the United States.

Smart gun proponents say the technology, which uses electronics ranging from fingerprints to wireless-connected watches, can prevent suicides, violence from stolen guns, and children using their parents’ firearms in school shootings.

But when a German company tried to introduce a smart gun in the United States two years ago, gun rights advocates protested against two stores that tried to sell it, even threatening to burn down a Maryland shop.

Gun rights groups, including the NRA, fear the New Jersey mandate will be replicated around the country, and their fierce protests have stalled advancement of the technology.

With no daylight between smart gun proponents and objectors, the New Jersey mandate’s original sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D), introduced a measure in November that she hoped would solve the problem.

Instead of mandating all guns sold in the state be smart guns, her bill would have only required dealers to carry at least one smart gun.

It passed the legislature, but Christie — a GOP presidential contender — didn’t sign the bill, effectively giving it a pocket veto. It’s a major blow to smart gun proponents.

His move came two weeks after the technology got a boost from President Obama, who directed the federal government to research and potentially buy firearms as part of his executive actions on gun control.

Weinberg was clearly puzzled by the governor’s action (or lack thereof), telling Star-Ledger reporter Samantha Marcus that the veto is “a little mystifying, because by his pocket vetoing of this legislation he keeps the current law on the books, which is much more stringent.”

Asked to comment on leaving the law in place, Christie spokeswoman Joelle Farrell avoided the smart gun issue and focused instead on the “pocket veto period in general.”

“Having the legislature pass more than 100 bills in such a hasty and scrambled way, praying for them to be rubber stamped, is never a good formula for effectively doing public business,” she said.

And so the mandate lives.