By Brenda Flanagan
“We can no longer be silent! We can no longer sit idly by as mass shootings escalate across the United States!” said Rev. Bob Moore.
With gun control advocates like Moore, from Coalition for Peace Action/Ceasefire NJ, voicing full support — Senate President Steve Sweeney took the podium in Princeton to put his colleagues on notice: he will call them into session later this month for a second shot at overriding Governor Christie’s veto of SB 2360. The bill requires notifying local police whenever someone with documented mental illness seeks to expunge that record before applying for a gun permit.
“This is a mental health issue. It’s a gun safety issue, and we are not going to walk away from this,” Sweeney said. “My colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle will vote on this, yes or no. There’s no hiding from this issue.”
If any senator tries to duck it by not showing up, Sweeney says he will use his authority to send state troopers out and round up the truants.
“We’ll go get them. You’re not going to run. You’re not going to hide,” he said.
Sweeney and other speakers referred to the recent shooting at a campus in Oregon, where a gunman with mental health issues killed nine people — and said legislation like SB 2360 gives police critical information about potential gun owners. The bill passed unanimously in both houses initially — and Democrats charged the governor with playing to conservatives as he seeks his party’s nomination.
“This governor is more concerned about presidential politics than keeping our lives safe,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.
Sweeney’s first attempt to conquer Christie’s veto of SB 2360 ended one vote short when almost every Republican balked at overriding their governor. But last week on ABC News, Christie said he’s proposed a better alternative: emphasizing mental health reforms.
“The Democratic Legislature in New Jersey’s ignored it. You know why? Because it doesn’t create headlines. It’s not taking away anybody’s guns. It doesn’t create a headline, so they don’t want to deal with it. They tried to override a veto of a bill that I put forward, when my substitute was to get tougher on mental health,” Christie said.
“The only thing Steve Sweeney is interested in accomplishing today is grabbing a few politically expedient headlines,” New Jersey’s Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. commented today. “He’s been setting the stage for a political dog and pony show for the last few weeks, while Senate Republicans have been working on finding a real compromise solution.”
Political analyst Patrick Murray says it’s fascinating.
“It shows how much power the governor still has over his Republican caucus in that he can prevent those who even sponsored this bill from voting, to override it, which would be a major embarrassment for him as he runs for national office. Almost as bad as if he had actually signed the gun bill, would be the fact he’d have to explain to these Republican voters why he can’t control his own Republican legislators back home,” he said.
On the presidential primary campaign trail, Christie often touts his perfect record of never having had a veto overridden by the Legislature. The Senate Democrats are going to give it one more try Oct. 22, well aware that the odds are against them.