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Christie vetoes bill to limit gun magazines, calls it "trivial"

Bill Clark, CQ-Roll Call / Getty

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have limited gun magazine sizes from 15 bullets to 10 on Wednesday. And in a typically strongly-worded veto message, he said the measure was nonsensical and trivial.

"It simply defies common sense to believe that imposing a new and entirely arbitrary number of bullets that can be lawfully loaded into a firearm will somehow eradicate, or even reduce, future instances of mass violence," Christie said in his veto message.

The veto came hours after pro-gun control activists dropped off 55,000 signatures calling on Christie to sign the bill at the statehouse, including 10,000 signatures from New Jersey. One activist, whose son was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, urged Christie at a press conference to sign the bill, the Star Ledger reports.

Yet Christie called the magazine limit proposal "a trivial approach to the sanctity of human life," saying in his veto message, "this is not governing." But Democrats argued that Christie's veto was political. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greewald called it "cowardly" and said, "I would imagine this is a very uncomfortable topic to have with conservative voters in Iowa and New Hampshire."

Technically, Christie exercised a "conditional veto" — a broad power that lets the New Jersey governor rewrite major sections of a bill and send it back to the legislature. In this case, Christie substituted some preexisting proposals of his that focused on making it harder for mentally ill people to obtain guns.

Christie has long supported some gun restrictions in New Jersey, including the state's ban on assault weapons. But for the most part, he has avoided commenting on national gun policy. In 2011, an NRA spokesman told the Wall Street Journal,  "we rate him as a question mark."

In 2013, Christie signed some bills toughening gun laws, but refused to sign three others proposed — including a ban of the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, which the Star Ledger calls "the most powerful weapon commonly available to civilians." Christie had previously backed banning the rifle, but said he opposed the legislature's proposal to require people who already owned the rifles to give them back. He also said that there were no known examples of the rifle being used to a commit a crime in New Jersey, so the ban would "only interfere with lawful recreational pastimes."