Gov. Chris Christie has shown himself to be a strong leader on many issues, someone who is not afraid of a fight. Unfortunately, on the question of how to protect New Jersey residents from gun violence, Christie has chosen not to lead.
The proposals Christie announced to curb gun violence fall far short of what's necessary. They include some of the recommendations of the task force he formed after the Newtown, Conn., shootings.
It's not that Christie's proposals don't contain some good ideas. In particular, his plan to expand access to mental-health services and to give courts and mental-health professionals more leeway to involuntarily commit potentially dangerous people is well worth supporting. Such measures might have made a difference in recent mass shootings.
Christie also proposed stiffening penalties for gun-related crimes, expanding background checks to include histories of mental health treatment and requiring photo IDs for firearms purchases. He wants tough penalties for straw purchasers, those who resell firearms to people who cannot legally buy them. He repeated his call for common-sense changes in bail laws to give judges more flexibility to keep violent people accused of crimes in jail.
But his decision to pretty much ignore the "gun" aspect of gun laws was a disappointment, especially coming in the same week the U.S. Senate, cowering in fear of the gun lobby, failed to pass a minimal expansion of federal background checks.
There's nothing wrong with Christie's call to restrict the access of minors to the most violent videogames without their parents' consent. But when the only additional gun that would be banned by the governor is the Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle - a powerful military weapon that few would argue has any legitimate private use - it is clear that Christie is proposing a package as inoffensive to gun-rights advocates as possible.
The state Assembly has already passed a 22-bill gun package that includes banning all .50 caliber weapons, limiting ammunition magazines to no more than 10 rounds, expanding background checks to private gun sales and requiring all ammunition sales to be face-to-face.
Earlier this month, the state Senate introduced its own gun-control bills, which would create a new electronic background-check system and prohibit people convicted of certain crimes from buying ammunition.
Christie is right that dealing with the problem of gun violence must include improving mental-health services and addressing our culture of violence, but that cannot be our exclusive approach.
Perhaps it is best to look at Christie's ideas as a supplement to the work of state lawmakers. But they are not a substitute for the more substantive gun-safety proposals coming from the Assembly and the Senate.