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Christie’s veto of gun control for mentally ill stands

For the 49th consecutive time, New Jersey Democrats failed to get enough Republican votes to override a veto by Gov. Chris Christie.

The Assembly Chambers at the Statehouse
The Assembly Chambers at the Statehouse (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

Led by State Sen. President Steve Sweeney Thursday, Senate Democrats tried to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would make it tougher for a mentally ill person to legally buy a gun. Christie has vetoed over 400 bills and democrats have been rejected every time they have tried to overturn the governor, but this fight is not over.

“It’s just remarkable to watch people vote for something time in and time out and then when the governor says ‘no’ they all fall in line. I thought it was a no-brainer. I thought there was no way that we couldn’t get this done,” said State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-Thorofare). “For the people of this state…you know? Enough! This really shouldn’t have happened. It’s disgusting.”

Republicans turned their backs on the people of New Jersey so they could help Christie’s national aspirations, according to Sweeney. The original bill passed both the Senate and Assembly unanimously and had several GOP sponsors.

“God forbid someone that has a mental health issue gets their record expunged and gets a gun and kills somebody. Then how do you live with yourself,” Sweeney asked.

In a technical, but shrew procedural move, Sweeney pulled the bill from the board without recording the vote. That gave him the opportunity to try to override it again because technically, a vote never actually happened.

“By taking the bill down we can bring it up at the next voting session,” the Senate president explained. “If I have to put the house under call to make them all vote I will. No one’s going to escape this. There’s going to be no abstentions. It’s a yes or a no.”

No Republican senator spoke on the bill during roughly 15 minutes of debate including Sens. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) and Chris Connors (R-Forked River), both of whom voted in favor of the override, but both whom declined an interview request following the voting session.

“When it comes to kids and protecting them, think of your original vote. That’s why it was easy,” said State Sen. Fred Madden (D-Turnersville) when implored Republicans to support the override.

The governor also failed to address the bill itself in his conditional veto, according to Madden and Sweeney.

“I cannot endorse a continued path of patchwork proposals and fragmented statutes that add further confusion to an already cumbersome area of law,” Christie wrote in his conditional veto on Aug. 10, 2015. “Instead, we must seek real reform. It is our responsibility to enact a comprehensive set of solutions that build safer communities and ensure that individuals with mental illness get the treatment they need.”

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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