Giffords group lobbies Chris Christie to pick a pro-background check senator
In an email to supporters this afternoon, Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun control group formed by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, urged New Jersey governor Chris Christie to appoint an interim senator who supports background checks.
"Senator [Frank] Lautenberg cannot be replaced," Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote in the email under the subject line "Chris Christie's Big Decision."
"However, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must now select a successor. And he should pick one who supports expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the deranged."
Christie announced yesterday that he'll hold a special election, as soon as possible, to elect a new U.S. senator, following the death of Lautenberg on Monday morning.
Christie cited the urgent need for New Jersey citizens to pick their own representative given the many important national debates now occurring in Washington, but, by statute, that election can't take place until mid-October.
That lag could mean it's a Christie appointee who weighs in on a number of crucial votes, including on an immigration reform bill, which is expected to occur before July 4, and, possibly, another vote on expanding background checks.
After the compromise Manchin-Toomey amendment failed by just a few votes in April, supporters vowed to rally support and bring the bills back again before the end of the year for another vote on the measure.
"As we move closer to a second vote on background checks, this decision could make the difference between passing background checks, or another crushing defeat," Giffords and Kelly write in the email.
Shortly after the Manchin-Toomey amendment failed in Washington, Christie unveiled a new measure to strengthen New Jersey's background check system, by mandating that mental health records be a part of the background checks.
Christie's measure did not directly address the controversial parts of the Manchin-Toomey proposal, including a provision to expand background checks to firearms purchased at gun shows, since New Jersey law already prohibits gun shows.
The appointment could prove trickier for Christie, who is hoping to win an overwhelming re-election in November, in part to send a message to a national audience about his viability in 2016.
A Quinnipiac poll earlier this year found that 96 percent of New Jerseyans support expanded background checks.
But the Republican Party, particularly the primary voters who dominate the early presidential states, fiercely oppose expanding background checks as a red herring for a national gun registry and eventual confiscation of firearms.
"I do have a preference for one party over the other, so that might color my judgment a little," Christie said at his press conference yesterday.
Here's the full email:
Frank Lautenberg spent a career working tirelessly to reduce gun violence in our country.
He authored important legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and one of the final votes he cast was in support of expanded background checks. He was wheeled down to the floor for that vote, as his colleagues applauded his determination.
Senator Lautenberg cannot be replaced. However, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must now select a successor. And he should pick one who supports expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the deranged.
Earlier this year, a Quinnipiac University poll found that ninety-six percent of New Jersey residents support expanding background checks, including ninety-five percent of gun owners.
These are staggering numbers, and Governor Christie should consider the will of New Jersey voters while making his selection.
Sign our petition calling on Governor Christie to honor Senator Lautenberg's legacy and select a successor who will vote 'YES' to expand background checks for gun purchases.
As we move closer to a second vote on background checks, this decision could make the difference between passing background checks, or another crushing defeat.
That's why your signature is so important. We'll make sure Governor Christie receives it.
All the best,
Gabby and Mark