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June 06, 2013 5:08 PM The GOP’s New Senator

By Ed Kilgore

The new interim United States Senator just appointed by Chris Christie has mostly labored in his boss’ big shadow, and despite occupying a statewide office the last year, doesn’t have a very clear issue profile. But ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser turned up a couple of items that ought to raise eyebrows and blood pressure levels among conservatives already suspicious of Christie’s partisan and ideological bona fides:

New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa (R), who Gov. Chris Christie (R) just announced will temporarily fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), supports a gun buyback program that took thousands of guns off of New Jersey’s streets and he says that reinstating the death penalty in his state is not a “good idea.”
Chiesa indicated his opposition to the death penalty in an interview with New Jersey’s public media network. While the incoming senator explained that he supported the death penalty when he was younger, he now opposes it because “in the one instance where you’re not right about that, there’s no way in any way to remedy that decision and the consequences of administering that decision.”
Christie’s choice for the U.S. Senate is also a strong supporter of a gun buyback program, testifying before a state legislative committee that “gun buybacks are helping to make New Jersey safer, and because they’re paid for with criminal forfeiture funds, they don’t cost the taxpayers a penny.” The state’s buyback program, which Chiesa described as “a valuable part of a broader anti-gun-violence strategy,” netted 10,000 firearms as of last month.
The guns purchased in this anti-gun violence program are destroyed. As Chiesa explained, “[t]he weapons we take in are melted down. They can never be stolen and used in a street crime. They can never kill a curious child. They can never turn a traffic dispute into a tragedy, and they can never claim the life of one of our brave police officers.”

This is certainly not the way a good “constitutional conservative” would talk and think about innocent guns, which exist only to protect our rights against criminals and Big Government. And for God’s sake, anyone weeping over the possibility of some lowlife getting executed…. and a former prosecutor at that!

It’s very clear why Chiesa is a “caretaker” who isn’t running in the Republican special primary to continue in the Senate. But make no mistake, everything he’s said and done will be duly noted in the early oppo research file Christie’s potential presidential rivals are already keeping.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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