New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed 10 pieces of gun legislation into law Thursday.
Christie, widely seen as a probable GOP candidate for president in 2016, signed off on the slate of bills, most of which were non-controversial, while leaving five more contentious bills still awaiting his signature or veto.
One of the new laws will disqualify any person on the federal terrorist watch list from obtaining firearms identification cards or permits to purchase handguns.
“To the extent that this bill will keep guns out of the hands of known terrorists, or those who have taken active steps to support terrorist activities, my signature on this bill represents my commitment to keeping the citizens of New Jersey safe,” Christie said in a signing statement. “Our diligence against terrorism must never fade.”
Civil liberties advocates have criticized the watch list for its secrecy. The list is not public, nor can one petition to have his name removed from it. There were about 420,000 names on the watch list as of 2011. It has swollen to nearly 900,000 as of this year.
Other new laws strengthen penalties for trafficking firearms and exempt firearm licenses from public records requests.
Several of the remaining bills on Christie’s desk put the governor in a tight spot, politically.
One bill passed by the state Senate, S.2737, would institute background checks for all private gun sales and require all prospective gun owners to attend a gun safety training class.
Another would ban a model of .50 caliber rifle, the most powerful rifle available to civilians.
Second Amendment groups oppose such measures.
“Of the ten bills signed today, we supported two, opposed two, and were neutral on the remaining six,” Scott Bach, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Rifle and Pistol Clubs, told the Hunterdon County Democrat. ” We are most concerned about what the governor will do on three bills on which he took no action today—the Sweeney ‘kitchen sink’ bill that attacks gun rights and does nothing to prevent crime; a ban on $10,000 rifles used by wealthy hobbyists; and a bill that would mandate that the state police disclose law enforcement data in violation of federal law.”
Christie has not been afraid to take the National Rifle Association to task for “reprehensible” rhetoric, but he has also hedged his language on new gun laws for New Jersey, which already has some of the strictest firearm regulations in the country.
“I think we have enough gun laws now,” Christie said in a news conference in July. “And it’s time for us to enforce the gun laws that we have now, which I think we do fairly well here in this state.”
If he is seen as too liberal on the Second Amendment, the conservative base could abandon Christie in the 2016 GOP primary. However, he will need the vote of centrists and independents, many of whom favor increased background checks, to defeat a strong Democrat opponent in the general election.
A Rasmussen Reports poll released Wednesday reports Christie leading a potential GOP field with 21 percent support, ahead of Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).