New Jersey Senate Overrides Christie’s Veto of Gun Control Bill

“It’s presidential politics,” said the Senate president, Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester County who is considered a probable candidate for governor in 2017. “The only person that objected to this bill was the governor.”

Mr. Sweeney said he believed Mr. Christie was playing to conservative voters in states with early primaries by refusing to put his name to a law that could be cited as a restriction of the right to bear arms. But the bill was really about mental health, not gun ownership, the senator said.

It was a measure that had been requested by the courts to require the reporting of any attempt to expunge a gun buyer’s record of mental illness. There is no provision in existing law for local police to weigh in on whether an expungement should be granted.

The bill had passed unanimously in the Senate and Assembly in June, before Mr. Christie conditionally vetoed it in August. Despite that broad support, the first attempt to override the veto failed, as most of the Republicans who had voted for the bill balked at defying the governor.

Mr. Christie preferred a comprehensive approach to reforming New Jersey’s mental health system, said Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the governor, who called the vetoed bill a “half measure.” Mr. Christie supported a different bill that Thomas Kean Jr., a Republican senator, had introduced, Mr. Roberts said.

“Governor Christie is committed to a comprehensive approach, and he will continue to work with legislators of both parties to pass real mental health reforms which truly improve public safety,” Mr. Roberts said in a statement.

Some Democrats and some advocates for people with mental illness have criticized aspects of Mr. Kean’s bill. Rather than wait to see how that bill fares, three co-sponsors of the vetoed bill — Christopher Bateman, Christopher J. Connors and Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr. — joined the 24 Democrats in a 27-to-12 vote, ending a string of 52 failed attempts to override one of Mr. Christie’s vetoes.

Senator Connors said his decision was based on a desire to resolve the matter and was unrelated to whether Mr. Christie was running for president or Mr. Sweeney had hopes of being the next governor.

If a similar vote in the Assembly receives the necessary two-thirds support, the law will require that the courts be notified of any request for the expungement of a mental health record for the purpose of obtaining a permit to buy a gun.

In a statement, the Assembly speaker, Vincent Prieto, a Democrat from Hudson County, said: “It’s always a good day for New Jersey when elected officials put aside politics and do the right thing for the people. That’s what happened in the Senate, and I look forward to it happening soon in the Assembly.”

“I see no logical reason why the Assembly wouldn’t vote to override this misguided veto and turn this bill into law,” Mr. Prieto added.

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