If state Sen. Jim Whelan comes to your door, arm yourselves, Atlantic County Sheriff Frank X. Balles seems to tell a group of gun aficionados in an online video.
“When somebody has been elected for 30 years, and he comes knocking on your door and tells you, ‘Listen, this is what I’m going to do to help you,’ quickly close your door, go inside ...’” Balles says on the video.
An unseen female voice interjects: “And get your gun!”
“And get your gun. Exactly,” Balles appears to say, to general laughter.
On Thursday, the Republican, who is running for Democrat Whelan’s seat on Nov. 5, denied making the statement.
Balles spoke at an Oct. 7 event hosted by the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, a group that advocates for responsible gun owners. Other Republican legislative candidates from western South Jersey also spoke. Bold Departure, a website that discusses firearms and veterans issues, posted the talks to YouTube on Oct. 10.
Talkingpointsmemo.com reported on the video Thursday morning, and it quickly accumulated derisory comments.
“Lovely, just lovely,” wrote gelfling545. “A law enforcement officer advocating violence. I suspect that the Dem candidate is fortunate in having this person as his opponent.”
Balles denied that he told the crowd to arm themselves. He said he just told people to close the door on the lawmaker.
“Whatever else was said, was said by the audience,” Balles said Thursday afternoon. “I can’t control the audience.”
Balles spoke after a campaign event in front of Atlantic County Democratic Headquarters where he called on Whelan to disavow negative advertising.
Both seek the state Senate’s 2nd Legislative District seat, which includes most of Atlantic County.
Balles also said he believed Whelan’s campaign was illegally coordinating with a Democrat-oriented superPAC, The Fund for Jobs, Growth and Security, which has targeted Balles with tens of thousands of dollars in advertising.
Whelan denied coordinating with the fund. He also said he repudiated the process that allows outside groups to spend unlimited sums.
“If he’s worried about negative campaigning,” Whelan added, “he really should not be suggesting that people go get a gun.”
Balles in the video also criticized recent state gun legislation. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a number of bills presented by the Democratic Legislature. The reworked bills that Christie approved include increased penalties for unlawful possession, a ban on gun purchases by people on the federal terrorist watch list, and a requirement for New Jersey law enforcement agencies to report lost, stolen or discarded guns to federal authorities.
Balles said this year’s gun proposals were the result of “the perfect storm” that followed the Sandy Hook School shooting in Connecticut.
“Lo and behold, this year the governor, and every senator and every assemblyperson were up for re-election. So what did they want to do? We’re going to take this tragedy and we’re going to put our name on a gun bill, because, you know, that’s going to make us look good in the public’s eyes, because we can’t have people getting killed, here, in the state of New Jersey, like (what) happened out there, and they want to play on the emotions of people, because who’s against a child not being killed in a school? ... That’s what it’s all about.”
Balles also complained about the high cost of campaigning in the 2nd District, which for a decade has been one of the closest and most expensive races in the state.
“I can’t understand, especially being in law enforcement for as long as I have, that why would you spend, in my case, $3 million for a position that pays $49,000.” Balles said. “Something there makes me scratch my head and say, ‘Wait a minute: there’s something, something just doesn’t seem legal about that. There’s gotta be some kind of kickback somewhere, OK.’ And, I guess they’re doing it because it’s really not their money.”
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