Lonegan to hold a gun-range fund-raiser

Steve Lonegan will allow donors to shoot five rounds of an almost-banned Barrett rifle for $125.
Steve Lonegan will allow donors to shoot five rounds of an almost-banned Barrett rifle for $125.
Posted: September 22, 2013

TRENTON - In the spring, Gov. Christie personally proposed a ban on sales of the .50-caliber Barrett semiautomatic sniper rifle.

But last month, the Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have implemented that very ban, saying Democratic lawmakers went too far by forcing current owners to give up the military-style weapon.

Now, New Jersey's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Steve Lonegan, whom Christie has endorsed, will hold a fund-raiser in Camden County in which donors can shoot the same gun for $25 a round.

The four-hour event Saturday morning at the South Jersey Shooting Club in Winslow is sponsored by the New Jersey Second Amendment Society and will raise money for Lonegan, the underdog conservative running against Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker in next month's special election.

"Meet Steve Lonegan and exercise your Second Amendment Rights all in one shot!" reads a flier for the event, which is closed to the media.

The more firepower used, the more money goes to Lonegan: $20 gets attendees 10 rounds from a Ruger .22-caliber rifle or 20 rounds from a Colt .22-caliber pistol. And for $125, anyone with a valid driver's license can shoot five rounds from the Barrett, a gun nearly banned in the Garden State.

"That's one of the reasons the rifle was chosen" for the event, said Frank Jack Fiamingo, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society. "I'm sure they'll appreciate an opportunity to give a try on a Barrett with all of the hubbub the Legislature tried to make over it."

The Booker campaign criticized Lonegan for using the event to raise money.

"Mayors across America are working to curb the epidemic of gun violence, but when commonsense measures to keep illegal guns off the street, including new penalties for straw purchasers and expanded background checks, came before Congress earlier this year, the gun lobby stood in the way - the same gun lobby holding a political fund-raiser," Kevin Griffis, a Booker spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Gun-range fund-raisers are increasingly popular around the country, although they are believed to be unprecedented in New Jersey. Lonegan plans a second such event later in the month.

Christie's rejection of a ban on the .50-caliber Barrett was unpopular in New Jersey, a Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed last week, with 54 percent of respondents saying they strongly supported the bill and 11 percent offering partial support.

Christie's veto was one of a package of three antigun bills he rejected last month. His opponent in the gubernatorial election, State Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex) criticized him for acting on the bills late on a Friday, when the public would be less likely to hear about it. She said his views on guns were not in line with those of most New Jerseyans.

Another bill Christie rejected would have required law enforcement officers to report information on stolen or missing guns to the federal government. He conditionally vetoed that bill, asking the Legislature to remove a requirement that the state publish ballistics data, which he said would have violated federal law.

The Legislature complied, and Christie signed the revised bill into law on Friday.

Contact Matt Katz at 609-217-8355, mkatz@ phillynews.com, or follow @mattkatz00 on Twitter. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at www.inquirer.com/christiechronicles.

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