Governor Chris Christie, the New Jersey Republican dubbed “The Boss” by Time magazine, took aim at the National Rifle Association for a video featuring President Barack Obama’s children, who have armed guards.
“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” a narrator asks in the 35-second clip posted on the NRA’s website Jan. 15. It calls Obama a hypocrite because his two daughters have security officers while he was skeptical of the value of armed guards in the nation’s schools as he pitched gun controls.
“To try and make a political point out of that is reprehensible,” Christie, 50, said yesterday at a news briefing in Trenton, where he announced a task force to study violence. “I think it’s awful to bring public figures’ children into the political debate -- they don’t deserve to be there.”
The governor said his own sons and daughters receive state police protection and that public officials’ family members must accept such security details. The governor, who has a wife and four children, said the NRA should stick to the policy debate over regulating firearms.
“For any of us who are public figures, you see that kind of ad and you just cringe because this was not appropriate,” Christie told reporters. “They’ve got real issues to debate on this topic. Get to the real issues. Don’t be dragging people’s children into this. It’s just wrong.”
NRA representatives Andrew Arulanandam and Scott Bach didn’t respond to telephone messages and e-mails left at the group’s Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters, seeking comment on Christie’s remarks.
The first-term governor, who is seeking re-election in November, said that he formed a state task force on violence control that will study New Jersey’s firearms laws as well as the roles played by drugs, mental health and school safety. The panel will give him a report in 60 days, Christie said. Emotion and “empty rhetoric” shouldn’t guide the gun debate, he said.
“Bad people will do bad things no matter how hard we try to stop it,” said Christie, a former federal prosecutor. “This is not a time to grandstand and it’s not a time for politics.”
Christie had said as both a U.S. attorney and a candidate for governor that he supported New Jersey’s assault-weapons ban. Since the Dec. 14 slaying of 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, he has said he would be willing to discuss stricter gun controls as part of a more comprehensive package that deals with mental health, substance abuse and violence in video games.
“It’s not good for us to have a conversation about just one thing,” Christie said in response to a question this week at a town-hall meeting in Manahawkin. “We need to talk about what we can do as a society. If it’s just about gun control, then I’m not going to be a part of it.”
Obama announced proposals aimed at reducing gun violence Jan. 16, including universal background checks for firearms buyers and a sales ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, such as those used in the Newtown slayings and the July 20 shootings at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater that left 12 dead and 58 wounded.
New York was the first state to act on growing calls for tighter limits on weapons since Newtown. Lawmakers this week passed Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bill to toughen gun controls and make it easier to keep firearms from the mentally ill.
In New Jersey, Democrats who control the legislature have introduced measures that would ban firearm magazines that hold more than five rounds of ammunition and require anyone applying for a handgun permit to pass a mental-health screening.
Christie said he is being more deliberative in his approach than Cuomo. The governor wouldn’t say whether he backed tougher federal limits or New York’s clampdown on ammunition capacity.
The governor said he wasn’t worried about pressure from the NRA, or from such gun-control advocates as former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords of Arizona or the group formed by James Brady, the Reagan administration press secretary wounded in an assassination attempt.
Time, which featured Christie on the cover of its Jan. 21 issue, said “he’s not afraid of picking fights with Republicans or making allies of Democrats.” The story said the governor has a “full-bore political style.”
Christie said he was resisting hurrying the violence panel’s work, and that only “simpletons” believe that addressing the issue is an easy task.
The governor said he’s against putting armed guards at schools, while he could be persuaded if the panel says that the tactic may improve safety. He said he also has concerns about requiring therapists to report patients they think are dangerous -- an element of the new law in New York.