Christie repeatedly avoids questions on assault weapons

A look at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The "Today" show's Matt Lauer, over and over again in an interview this morning, asked Gov. Christie if he would support a ban on federal assault weapons in the wake of recent high-profile mass shootings. Christie dodged the questions, and likewise during three other interviews this morning he refused to say whether or not he would support new gun laws.

By way of context, Camden broke a record last year for murders -- 67 -- and assault weapons contributed to at least two shooting incidents a month, according to police. One murder last year was carried out with an AK-47, and most illegal guns in the city come from other states, where gun laws are more lax. 

Lauer showed a Christie campaign ad from 1995, when the governor was running for state Assembly, in which he supported an assault weapons ban in the state. 

This morning, though, Christie wouldn't answer a question about a federal assault weapons ban. Christie is now considered a leader of the pro-gun GOP, and he will appear this week on the cover of Time magazine under the headline "THE BOSS."

Here's my transcript of the interview with Lauer:

LAUER: [In 1995] you said of your opponents' pledge to repeal that ban that it was "dangerous, crazy and radical." Would you take the next step now in the wake of all these shootings and say that it's "dangerous, crazy and radical" for the federal government not to step up and create a ban on assault weapons?

CHRISTIE: What I'd say is states need to make these decisions, like we've made in New Jersey, we have the second strongest gun laws in America only behind the state of New York. But I think if that's all you're talking about you're short-changing the conversation. This young man in Connecticut was obviously seriously ill. Why do we have such a stigma about mental illness treatment? Why aren't we talking about substance abuse treatment?

LAUER: But if the president proposes a federal assault weapons ban would you support it?

CHRISTIE: if thats all he proposes --

LAUER: if it's part of his plan.

CHRISTIE: Well, you gotta tell me the rest of the plan, Matt...All you're focusing on is gun control, what about the violence in our video games?...The fact is we need to have a conversation about all of these things....If we don't deal with the substance abuse issues and the mental health issues that lead to violence we're short-changing this conversation.

LAUER: I'll go back one time. If they deal with those issues as well would you support a federal ban on assault weapons?

CHRISTIE: Depends on what they do, Matt. 

LAUER: Why not just say yes or no?

CHRISTIE: Because it's not that easy. I know in a short interview like this, you'd like me to give you pithy answers. But the fact is these are important issues. And my point is I'm willing to have that conversation. That's a lot more than what othe people will say.

Christie did a media blitz this morning after his State of the State speech yesterday (which we wrote about, here). He appeared on CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC and Fox Business Network. In three of those interviews, he was directly asked about an assault weapon ban, and all three times he declined to say "yes" or "no."

On MSNBC one of the commentators noted that the gun ban is an area under politicians' control while the other issues Christie mentioned -- mental health and video games -- are not in their realm in the same way. Christie conceded that if a package of anti-gun violence laws was "comprehensive," then "there's no doubt in my mind we would come to an area of compromise."

Several times, as a way of pointing out the need for gun control, Christie brought up the story of a Camden mother high on drugs who decapitated her son and then killed herself. He said she was high on crack. In fact, she was on wet (a mix of marijuana and PCP).