New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose presidential campaign has seen him move further to the right on gun control, issued a conditional veto on Monday against a bill to strengthen an existing law banning individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses from owning or purchasing guns.
The measure, as written, would have required judges to order individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses to surrender their firearms within 48 hours. As it stands, New Jersey law prohibits people who have domestic violence convictions or are subject to restraining orders from owning guns, but supporters of the bill called the enforcement mechanism behind the law weak. (This is the case is plenty of other states, too.)
The proposal had strong support in the state, including among gun owners. According to a survey commissioned by Everytown for Gun Safety, 82% of New Jersey residents supported changing the existing law, including 78% of gun owners.
The bill also had the backing of anti-domestic violence organizations. "In recent years about one third of domestic violence homicides in New Jersey were committed with a gun," Jane Shivas, executive director of New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, said in a statement in support of the measure. "This bill legislates and clarifies the procedures in New Jersey, better insuring that no one disqualified from gun ownership due to domestic violence continues to have a gun in their possession."
According to a multi-state study published in the Journal of Public Health, the presence of a gun during a domestic violence incident increases the likelihood of a homicide by 500%. And according to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other wealthy nations.
And it's this deadly correlation between the presence of a firearm and lethal violence against women that make one of Christie's proposed "fixes" to the bill so baffling.
In a statement from Christie's office on his conditional veto, the governor recommends "prioritizing victims who seek firearms for protection":
The Governor is also recommending an immediate codification in statute of new rules currently being processed, giving expedited processing of firearm license applications for victims of domestic violence so that the victims may better defend themselves against future instances of abuse.
Rather than enforce existing protections and ensure that convicted abusers and those subject to restraining orders turn over their guns as the law requires, Christie is pushing for more guns in potential situations of domestic violence despite everything we know about guns and intimate partner violence.
As Dr. Deborah Azrael, the associate director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center and a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, once told me to summarize her decades of research on the topic:
What we know is that if a woman is going to be killed by a firearm, she’s most likely to be killed by a current or former intimate partner. What we know is where there are more guns, more women die. That’s just incontrovertibly true.
If Christie's conditional veto holds, there will be more guns.