On Friday, Gov. Chris Christie issued a press release trumpeting the fact that he had signed a "bipartisan measure to strengthen New Jersey's tough gun laws" - a headline that gives a tantalizing look at what might have been, if the governor were really the leader on this issue that he claims to be.

The press release referred to a bill that codifies how the state reports lost, stolen or discarded firearms to federal authorities. Christie had conditionally vetoed the measure in August and the Legislature sent him a new version. But since the bill merely makes existing guidelines state law, it really doesn't change anything.

The press release didn't mention, of course, the gun bills Christie has killed recently. These were common-sense measure that would have made a difference by making New Jersey residents safer.

The most important was a bill (S2723) sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney that would have extended background checks to private gun sales, would have required all gun buyers to undergo safety training and would have modernized New Jersey's system for issuing firearm permits.

Christie conditionally vetoed that bill last month, gutting it of its most important provisions. Sweeney said last week that he did not see a way to resurrect the legislation.

In the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings last December, Christie formed a state task force to recommend changes to prevent gun violence, and the state Legislature went to work on new bills. But only the mildest of those bills have become law, as the governor has bowed to pressure from gun owners and, we suspect, his own national political ambitions.

The clearest evidence of this is that one of the bills Christie vetoed in August, a ban on new sales of the powerful Barrett .50-caliber rifle, was a measure the governor himself had suggested in April.

While gun-safety legislation remains a contentious national issue, there's not much doubt where most New Jersey residents stand.

In a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released last week, 65 percent of state residents questioned said they supported the ban on .50 -caliber rifles, and an overwhelming 82 percent were in favor of Sweeney's bill and its expanded background checks.

Those figures ought to send the message that where gun safety is concerned, New Jersey residents want more meaningful action and fewer meaningless press releases.