Christie's gun gambit shot down, but the vulnerable need help | Editorial

on December 26, 2016



This is not fake news: While everyone was busy flogging the Legislature last week for trying to champion Gov. Christie's profitable and vengeful self-interests, lawmakers did something to prevent the mailman and the pizza delivery kid from brandishing Glocks.

The governor had unilaterally changed state gun regulations by expanding the types of people who could carry firearms in public in April, after his handpicked commission decided that the "justifiable need" standard to pack heat was too restrictive.

This three-man commission -- comprised of Christie's former legal counsel, his former assistant in the US Attorney's office, and a law professor married to the governor's ethics chief -- changed the requirement to include "serious threats," which means anyone who walks out of their house in Camden or Newark could probably qualify for a carry permit.

It was an intentionally vague amendment, so lawmakers stonewalled it Monday, using their authority to strike down any executive action that defies legislative intent.

It was the right move. But the debate about carry permits should continue in the coming year.

For one, as we learned in the murder of Carol Bowne in June 2015, answering legitimate requests for gun permits often takes too long. The Berlin Township woman was stabbed in her driveway by an abusive ex-boyfriend 42 days after she had applied, still waiting for the permit that was supposed to be granted within 30 days of her application.

That case a and a need to gain some political momentum before the Republican primaries - was what prompted Christie to convene his committee in the first place.

But even ardent gun-control advocates agree that this delay is a problem: "The time element is a legitimate concern," Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) said.

Granted, it's not clear whether Bowne could have saved herself even if she had gotten that permit. It would have allowed her to keep a gun in her home, but not on her person. More aggressive police enforcement of the restraining order against her ex-boyfriend might have offered better protection.

Still, women like her, facing a specific threat, might qualify for a carry permit based on the existing standard of "justifiable need."

The governor's panel suggested that state judges who grant carry permits based on that standard be more lenient in rewarding them to such women, and we agree, provided they can prove the threat exists, and that they receive training in the safe handling of a gun.

Christie exploited the Bowne case, however, by granting carry permit to applicants facing "serious but not specific threats," which is as far looser standard. That standard could be read to allow carry permits for anyone who lives or works in a dangerous neighborhood. Flooding these areas with guns is bound to increase the death toll.

Consider the numbers from the last FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (2013), which are startling: There were only 270 justifiable homicides committed by private citizens that year (some state police aren't required to report these figures), and of those 270, only 23 involved women killing men. Of those 23, only 13 involved firearms.

That means out of the 32,888 deaths involving a gun (including 11,205 homicides), only .0004 percent involved a woman killing an assailant or some other criminal.

We still assert the right of every woman to protect herself. But it is irrational to expand access to guns in New Jersey, where we have the sixth-lowest rate of gun deaths in the U.S. -- ample proof that limiting firearms is a better choice than turning our neighborhoods into the OK Corral.

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