TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has received mixed reviews among gun rights advocates in a key primary state for regulatory changes he backed this week in his home state of New Jersey.
Two groups said the proposals show his continued progress in promoting gun rights. Another said they didn't amount to anything.
Christie, who has been seeking to counter his image among some voters as weak on gun rights, endorsed the recommendations of a commission he established to examine his state's strict permitting and purchase regulations.
The panel proposed that the attorney general set uniform standards for processing gun applications. It found residents face uneven wait times across the state, sometimes exceeding the statutory limit.
Another recommended change would clarify what constitutes "justifiable need" in applications for concealed carry permits.
It's the latest in a line of actions Christie has taken, including pardoning out-of-state residents charged with violating the state's strict carry laws, that contrast with his earlier positions on firearms. Christie, who two decades ago supported an assault weapons ban, has said that if you don't change your mind on a single issue in 20 years, "you're not a thinking, breathing, living human being."
The governor on Wednesday pardoned a 26-year-old Marine recruiter from Massachusetts who was charged after inadvertently carrying a legally owned handgun in his car while driving in New Jersey.
Bob Clegg, president of Pro-Gun New Hampshire, said the commission report shows Christie is moving New Jersey in the right direction. "It's a big step. It's one more step of getting things done."
Richard Feldman, president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, and a New Hampshire resident, said that Christie was "ill-informed early on this issue" but that "since he's become governor I really believe he has had an epiphany."
But others said the proposals are minor and that Christie should have taken steps earlier in his administration to make the changes.
"These recommendations are nothing burgers," said Alan Rice, training director for the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, which is not backing a candidate. Rice has endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. "It's a bunch of type-written pages," he said.
The panel's report came after New Jersey resident Carol Bowne was stabbed to death by an ex-boyfriend who later killed himself. Her firearm permit application was delayed beyond the statutory limit.
Christie created the panel by executive order in June before launching his presidential campaign, and he called for a report within 90 days.
The recommendations do not call for legislation, which would have to move through a Democrat-controlled Legislature. Instead, the report lays out administrative changes that could be made.
Christie said he would work with the attorney general to put the changes into effect "as quickly as possible."
The issue comes to light in a crowded Republican field, where only recently has Christie gained traction in New Hampshire, pushing his resume as a former U.S. attorney who knows how to prosecute terrorists. Christie has visited New Hampshire more than any other candidate and hosted 36 town hall meetings.