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Will He or Won't He? N.J. Magazine Ban Heading to Christie's Desk

Friday, May 16, 2014

Gun control supporters appear poised to force New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, often discussed as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, to show where he stands on the Second Amendment.  On Monday, the state's Senate passed A2006, legislation to lower the state's magazine-capacity limit from 15 rounds to 10 rounds, by a vote of 22-17, mostly along party lines.  The bill will be sent to Christie for signature or veto after the Assembly, which previously approved it by a vote of 46-31, approves technical changes made to the bill by the Senate.  Once the bill reaches Christie's desk, he will have 45 days to make his decision.

Some Second Amendment supporters believe that Christie's presidential aspirations hinge on what he does with A2006.  One commentator suggested that "New Jersey's absurd citizen control fetish doesn't play well in New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Utah, Nevada, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arizona, or Michigan.  Any candidate that doesn't do well in these early primaries can kiss their (sic) presidential aspirations goodbye, and one of the fastest ways to sink a Republican nomination in the current political environment is to be seen as a champion of gun control."

Central to the political battle over the legislation, gun control supporters and opponents disagree on the ability of a 10-round limit to prevent murders.  The Star-Ledger reported that the new ban's supporters claim that "in the case of mass shooters, the few seconds it takes to change a magazine could provide bystanders a chance to stop the shooter."

Similarly, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that "Supporters of the legislation say forcing shooters to reload more frequently could give potential victims a chance to escape."  However, the paper noted, "Sen. Mike Doherty (R., Warren), an Army veteran, countered 'Changing a magazine is about the simplest thing you can do.  It takes a couple seconds.'"

Sen. Doherty's point was made previously on page 74 of the official report on the terrible shootings at Virginia Tech University in 2007.  The report stated, "The (investigating) panel concluded that 10-round magazines that were legal would have not made much difference in the incident.  Even pistols with rapid loaders could have been about as deadly in this situation."

Gun control supporters' focus on mass shootings may be good for grabbing headlines and ramming restrictions into place, but cannot possibly be so good for reducing the number of murders in general.  Mass shootings account for a small percentage of victims killed with guns, and fewer victims than are accounted for by murders not involving firearms of any sort.

Setting those facts aside for the sake of discussion, however, a limit on magazine capacity will necessarily have less impact upon perpetrators of mass shootings than upon people targeted by those crimes' perpetrators.  That is due to the simple fact, underscored by Sen. Doherty's comment and the assessment of the Virginia Tech panel, that a criminal can carry as many magazines as he wants, but an innocent person carrying a firearm for self-defense will often carry only the magazine inserted into the firearm.  In such instances, the difference between 15 and 10 rounds might be the difference between life and death.

That, by itself, is sufficient reason for Gov. Christie to veto A2006.

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