TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Chris Christie called out the National Rifle Association for a “reprehensible” ad that brought President Barack Obama’s daughters into the gun-control debate, while refusing to take a position on the president’s proposal for a federal ban on assault weapons.
“We’re taking a more deliberative approach in New Jersey,” Christie said Thursday at a Statehouse news conference in which he announced creation of a task force to study guns, violence, mental illness and school security and to make recommendations in 60 days.
Christie refused to answer questions about his position on a federal assault weapons ban or Obama’s proposed ban on magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, saying he has no influence over what Congress and the president decide.
However, Christie didn’t hesitate to offer an opinion on the NRA ad accusing the president of being a hypocrite for allowing his daughters to be protected by armed Secret Service agents but not embracing armed guards for schools.
The Republican governor and father of four said the children of public figures should be off-limits to political attacks.
“To talk about the president’s children or any public officer’s children who have — not by their own choice but by requirement — protection, and to use that somehow to try to make a political point I think is reprehensible,” Christie said in response to a question about the ad.
Christie also sided with the president when Obama came to New Jersey to tour damages after Hurricane Sandy devastated the state in late October. The Republican governor’s praise of the Democratic president six days before the election was sharply criticized by some GOP members, who accused Christie of helping to tip a close election to Obama.
Christie brushed aside the attacks, saying the president deserved praise for coming to New Jersey’s aid quickly after the superstorm.
Critics Thursday accused Christie of intentionally sidestepping a thorny political debate on gun control that could hurt his political career later.
“I see a reluctance on the part of the governor to take a position that may hurt his chances to run for president four years from now,” said state Sen. Ray Lesniak, a veteran Democrat who has sponsored gun-control legislation. “That’s troubling because he’s not doing what he should to help protect the residents of New Jersey.”
New Jersey has had an assault weapons ban in place for 21 years, and Christie, a former federal prosecutor, said he supports the state’s current gun laws. He said the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., warrants a deeper conversation about societal violence.
“We must examine the usefulness and effectiveness of our gun laws, while at the same time examining not just the effects guns have on our society but the causes that bring people to violent conduct in the first place,” Christie said.
Gun-control advocate Bryan Miller called the task force “weak as water.” The former leader of Ceasefire NJ, a campaign to stop gun violence, who now heads a faith-based group with the same mission, said the task force was formulated to thwart legislative efforts to take action — and get credit — for encouraging stricter gun-control measures.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak acknowledged that any gun-control legislation that reached the governor’s desk before the bipartisan task force finishes its work likely would be vetoed.
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