Chris Christie Vetoes Gun Reform Bill Despite Pleas From Sandy Hook Parents

A memorial for the victims of the elementary school massacre at Sandy Hook 14 months ago CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JESSICA HILL
A memorial for the victims of the elementary school massacre at Sandy Hook 14 months ago CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JESSICA HILL

On Wednesday morning, parents of victims killed in the Sandy Hook massacre delivered a 55,000-signature petition to Gov. Chris Christie (R) imploring him to sign a modest gun reform law that would reduce the number of rounds permissible in gun magazines from 15 to 10. An hour later, Christie vetoed that bill, saying it was the “very embodiment of reform in name only.”

Christie sent the bill back as a “conditional veto” with calls to reform the mental health system, but his veto effectively killed the provision that would have limited the number of bullets in a magazine.

“[H]is statement accusing us of ‘grandstanding’ and furthering ‘empty rhetoric’ is a blow to the memories of our children,” said Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, who both lost their first-grade sons during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “… If Governor Christie truly wants to make meaningful reform, then focusing on what actually works would include the mental health reforms he proposes PLUS the limitation on high capacity magazines.”

Since 1984, there have been at least 12 mass shootings in which the shooter used magazines holding between 10 and 15 rounds, according to the Violence Policy Center. In the Tuscon, Ariz. shooting that injured former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, it was the 13th shot that killed 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Hockley and Barden said a limit on magazines also could have prevented more deaths during the Sandy Hook shooting.

Magazines in guns hold a limited number of “shells” or bullets. Once all the shells have been used, an individual must stop and reload the gun to continue shooting. In a number of mass shootings, this stopping to reload has given others an opportunity to intervene or subdue the shooter, and prevented additional loss of life. Just last month, the shooter who killed one student and injured several others at Seattle Pacific University was pepper sprayed and held down when he stopped to reload his gun. In the Tuscon, Ariz. shooting, Jared Loughner killed six and injured 13 others using a handgun with a 31-round clip. But he was ultimately stopped when he went to change magazines. And during the Sandy Hook Massacre, several kids reportedly escaped while shooter Adam Lanza was reloading his gun.

Last year, Christie vetoed another bill that would have banned military-style .50 caliber rifles and refined tracking of gun purchases. But New Jersey does have more robust gun regulations than many other states, including an assault weapons ban.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said Christie’s veto statement “sounds like it was geared more for a national audience, rather than crafted for the streets of New Jersey.”