The New Jersey Senate voted Thursday to override Gov. Christie’s veto of gun legislation, a surprising development that has eluded state Democrats for almost six years.
The successful veto attributed to three Republican senators joining the chamber’s 24 Democrats to support a bill that makes it difficult for persons with a history of mental health issues to expunge their illness to purchase a firearm.
The bill now goes to the 80-member Assembly, where a needed two-thirds majority will veto the bill entirely. Voting schedule will start after the Nov. 3 election, when all 80 seats are on the ballot.
Christie, a Republican presidential candidate, vetoed the bill in August, calling instead for broader changes to the state’s mental health system. Christie has stated that the country does not need new gun laws while on the campaign trail.
The governor mentioned the Democrats’ failed override attempts, 52-0, proves his party leadership. He further said that he could unite a fractured GOP in congress.
One of the three Republican senators who voted with the Democrats for the override was Joe Kyrillos of Monmouth County, who broke with Gov. Christie by announcing earlier this year that he backed Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for Republican nominee for president.
Kyrillos tweeted that his vote “speaks for itself.” “Don’t read any politics into it, just the right thing to do as I see it,” he said.
Sen. Kip Bateman (R., Somerset), stated on the Senate floor, “I don’t take pleasure in voting to override the governor. It’s a very difficult vote.”
The third Republican to vote with the Democrats was Sen. Christopher Connors of Ocean County. “This bill isn’t about Christie running for president. This bill isn’t about Sweeney running for governor,” Connors said.
The bill will make it more difficult for individuals previously committed to a mental-health institution to purchase a firearm. It requires former patients seeking to expunge their records with the intent of buying a gun to notify the authorities in advance. Doing so enables law enforcement to tell judges whether a person is a threat to public safety.
The bill passed both houses of the Democrat-controlled legislature this year on unanimous voting. After Christie’s veto, Senate Democrats attempted an override, but there were absent lawmakers and others abstained.
“This bill is about public safety. That’s it,” Sen. Fred Madden (D., Gloucester) said on the Senate floor. “We have a dangerous gap within the expungement process.”
“Christie was simply asking too much of the Republicans,” stated Carl Golden, senior contributing analyst with the Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. “A vote against that was perceived by many to simply be a vote against having stricter gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people.”
Kevin Roberts, Christie’s spokesman, stated that the bill was a “half-measure.” “The comprehensive reforms needed to truly address the gaps in our mental-health system which directly affect public safety have sat untouched in the Legislature for years.”