Last Wednesday, Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) vetoed a bill that would have limited ammunition magazines to a ten-round capacity, a bill that passed the duly elected New Jersey legislature in May, but which he waited until the eve of the July 4 weekend getaway day to act on. It was a classic Christie left-cheek sneak, and it worked, because I didn’t even know about it until Rachel Maddow called Christie out over it on Monday night’s The Rachel Maddow Show, while excoriating the Guv for his cowardly refusal to meet with parents of the children slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Specifically, she addressed Christie’s Monday press conference, in which he defended his veto. In it, he made the bizarre and tone-deaf argument that the bill, and the Sandy Hook parents supporting it, are implying the life of a child killed by the tenth and final bullet in a magazine isn’t as valuable as the life of a child whose life would presumably be spared because there would be no more bullets left.
“I’ve heard the argument and so are we saying then that the 10 children, on the clip [sic: a clip is not a magazine] that they advocate for, that their lives are less valuable? If you take the logical conclusion of their argument, you go to zero because every life is valuable.”
I live in New Jersey, and I can’t wait for Chris Christie to appear in court with me the next time I get a speeding ticket. Are we saying that the lives of children killed at 66 miles per hour are more valuable than those killed at 65? Why not 64? Why not two? If you take these speed limits to their logical conclusion, you get to zero. Actually, Christie has a pretty decent record in that regard.
Christie’s idiotic response, though, isn’t the most shameful part of this. If anything, he has done us all a favor by being so nakedly stupid, and by being such an jerk about it (in his veto, Christie accused advocates like the Newtown parents of taking a “trivial approach to the sanctity of human life”), because people seeing what a stupid asshole Chris Christie is always a good thing. What’s truly revolting, though, is the source of the video above, the one that Maddow played.
It came from the “GovChristie” YouTube channel, where the Guv polishes all the turds he really wants people to see. It’s not like Whitehouse.gov, where full-length video of all press conferences and other events are posted for public consumption, it is where Christie posts the clips he’s most proud of, including attacks on political opponents and media hits. It is a political shrine to the Christie brand, and so his rebuke of the Newtown parents is, essentially, a campaign ad.
Christie’s response to the Newtown parents deserves a response of its own, because Christie isn’t arguing a need to balance the legitimate safety concerns of citizens with the rights of gun owners, he is saying that limiting magazine capacity won’t save lives, that it “simply defies common sense” to believe it would.
Proponents of magazine limits often point to the mass shooting that nearly claimed the life of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. That shooter used a Glock 9mm with a 33-round magazine, fatally wounding 9 year-old Christina Taylor Green with the 13th shot. When he ran out of bullets, the shooter stopped to reload, fumbled the replacement magazine, and was subdued by bystanders. Unfortunately, Christina Taylor Green isn’t around to make a YouTube video for Christie.
Christie has already demonstrated that he is numb to the experiences of those touched by these gun massacres, though, so perhaps a different point of view is in order, the point of view of another prominent gun advocate from New Jersey.
On the morning of September 6, 1949, 28 year-old Howard Unruh left home with a Luger P08 loaded with an 8 round magazine (plus one in the chamber), another 8-round magazine, and 16 loose bullets. It took him around 13 minutes to kill 13 people and wound three others in his Camden, NJ neighborhood, before he ran out of bullets and returned home. Those killed included children aged 2, 6, and 9 years old.
After a gun battle with police, Unruh was forced to surrender by tear gas the police had thrown into his apartment.
In 1949, Unruh had time on his side, while his victims had only the limits of Unruh’s arsenal to end the “Walk of Death.” It took Camden police about fifteen or twenty minutes to respond to Unruh’s massacre, more than enough time for the shooter to reload three times, at least twice by hand-loading those loose bullets into the Luger’s magazine. Decades later, it would take police only five minutes to respond to the Tucson shooting.
Unfortunately, it only took the Tucson shooter 15 seconds to expend the 33 rounds that it took Unruh 15 minutes to fire. Unlike Unruh, the Tucson shooter had plenty more bullets; in addition to the 33-round magazine he dropped, the shooter had an additional two standard 15-round magazines on him. The Newtown shooter fired 154 shots at Sandy Hook Elementary School in less than five minutes, and had another 1,600 rounds at home. The Aurora movie theater shooter had amassed 6,000 rounds of ammunition. The only impediments to slaughter now are the ability to carry and reload those bullets, and the time it takes police to respond.
Unruh died nearly five years ago, but he apparently saw Christie coming a long way off. In his last publicly-reported words, Unruh delivered this message to the man who would one day run the state in which the Walk of Death occurred:
“I’d have killed a thousand if I had enough bullets.”
Thanks to Chris Christie, the next New Jersey mass shooter just might.