Christie calls NRA ad 'reprehensible,' announces violence task force

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during his 100th Town Hall meeting in Manahawkin, N.J. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)

To read the full story in Friday's paper, click here.

TRENTON – Gov. Christie blasted the NRA’s new ad focusing on President Obama’s daughters – he called it “reprehensible” – but he wouldn’t given an opinion about a proposed federal assault weapons ban.

Christie’s extensive comments on the issues of guns and violence came during a news conference this afternoon at the Statehouse in which Christie announced the creation of a task force to examine “violence control” measures in the wake of the shooting massacre in Sandy Hook.

Led by two former state attorneys general, one Republican and one Democrat, and made up of a school superintendent, mental health expert and the executives of two substance abuse centers, the SAFE Task Force will have 60 days to offer the governor suggestions.

He said he was “not worried” about how the NRA or gun-control advocates would react to the ultimate decisions he makes on the task force’s recommendations.

"I'm not worried about the NRA, I'm not worried about the Brady Campaign [To Prevent] Gun Violence, or [former Congresswoman] Gabrielle Giffords or anyone who is very vocal on any side of the issue," he said.

His decisions about how to proceed in New Jersey would be based on the task force's policy recommendations in five areas: Guns, mental health, drug addiction, levels of violence in society (like in video games) and school safety. Public hearings will be held and the task force, led by former Attorneys General Peter G. Verniero and John J. Degnan, will interview experts.

Despite repeated questions, Christie wouldn’t give an opinion on two of the hottest issues in the congressional gun control debate – a federal assault weapons ban and a limit on high-capacity magazines. He refused to answer similar questions during national TV interviews last week and at a town hall meeting Wednesday.

"First I have to have my own house in order, and that's what we’re starting to do today," Christie said. "You can ask me as many times as you want, and when I believe it's appropriate for me to give an opinion on that I'll give one."

Christie said he wouldn't have any influence on Congress if he opined on the issues right now. 

But the governor did strongly criticize the new ad from the NRA (below) calling Obama an “elitist hypocrite” because his two daughters have armed protection at school while most American children do not.

Christie had opened his news conference talking as a father: "There's nothing more inexplicable, more heartbreaking for a parent, than the death of a child. I say this more as a parent than a public official."

So when I asked him later about the NRA ad, his response was in the same vein: 

"To talk about the president's children and any other public officer's children who have not by their own choice but by requirement have protection  -- and to use that somehow to try to make a political point -- I think is reprehensible...I think it's awful to bring public figure's children into the public debate. You see that kind of ad and you cringe because it's just not appropriate."

Christie added that the ad "demeans" the NRA and "makes them less of a valid and trusted source of information on the real issues."