New Jersey Governor wants states to form gun control coalition after lack of action by US Congress

It would be modelled on the Climate Alliance – another coalition formed to protest the policies of President Donald Trump  

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Tuesday 20 February 2018 19:40 GMT
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on the need for major new gun regulations
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on the need for major new gun regulations (Getty Images )

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy has said “we gotta die trying” to pass gun control laws, declaring he wants to form a coalition of like-minded governors to push for reform.

With inaction on gun control legislation at the federal level, Mr Murphy is proposing that states take matters into their own hands. Such a move has worked before – when states formed the Climate Alliance to protest President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Then, several governors banded together to announce their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the global accord.

Forming a coalition on gun control would again pit states against Mr Trump, whose stance on gun control and ties to the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful gun-rights organisations, has inspired protests across the country.

The fallout of last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school has again demonstrated the divide between the US’s main political parties on gun control, with Republicans mostly offering their condolences while Democrats call for action.

Armed with a legally purchased AR-15-style assault rifle, a gunman last Wednesday attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, about 45 miles north of Miami, killing 17 people.

“I’m all for the ‘thoughts and prayers’ and ‘our hearts are with you,’ and symbols matter and words matter, but this is a time for action. And I completely reject this notion that there’s nothing we can do,” Mr Murphy said in an interview with Politico. “And I hope at the end of the day, that New Jersey can actually be a model for, ‘You know what, there is something you can do. And they’ve done it.’”

Mr Murphy is one of the two governors to have won statewide elections since Mr Trump was elected President. The only candidate to have flipped which party controlled the governorship, Mr Murphy is now considered to be one of the most progressive governors in the US.

The 60-year-old politician made New Jersey’s need for major new gun regulations a key talking point during his campaign.

The day before the Florida shooting, he happened to be hosting a roundtable to roll out a package of proposed new gun laws, Politico said, including a measure to limit magazine size.

That proposal was approved by New Jersey’s state legislature following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut – the deadliest school shooting in US history. But it was vetoed by Mr Murphy’s predecessor, Republican Chris Christie, in 2014.

Mr Trump’s responses to the multiple mass shootings that have occurred under his administration have drawn criticism from gun control advocates like Mr Murphy. While the President always expresses empathy for the victims and their families, he has appeared unwilling to break from the Republican party’s position on gun issues that does not appear to be preventing shootings from occurring again and again.

In his speech after the Florida shooting, Mr Trump promised to prioritise school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health” but made no mention of the scourge of gun violence in the US.

Regarding the gun control alliance, Mr Murphy has reached out to regional allies such as Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, both of whom are Democrats, Politico reported.

Mr Cuomo released a statement over the weekend saying that Washington was responding to the mass shooting in Parkland with “the same appalling complacency and inaction it provided to the hundreds of mass shootings that have devastated our country since Sandy Hook.”

It is uncertain yet whether any states with Republican governors will join Mr Murphy in his mission.

Most Republicans seem to be resisting any major change to gun laws. However, Ohio Governor John Kasich appears to have changed his stance on the issue.

The politician, who was endorsed by the powerful National Rifle Association in 2014 during his re-election bid for governor, has called on Mr Trump to implement “commonsense” gun legislation – a move that has elicited condemnation from gun-rights advocates in his state.

Mr Kasich’s team this week removed a pro-Second Amendment section on his website, which he used while running for president against Mr Trump in 2016. It has now been replaced with a new heading: “Common Sense on the Second Amendment.”

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