Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) voted both ways on gun safety legislation, opening himself to attack by political opponents over an emotionally charged debate about high capacity ammunition magazines.
Bramnick and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) are seeking re-election with Democrats Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman waging a spirited and well-funded challenge.
The 21st Legislative District was carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, Phil Murphy in 2017, and House Democrats and Bob Menendez in 2018 and now it could be a major battleground.
Bramnick accused his opponents of lying after Mandelblatt and Gunderman’s campaign criticized him for opposing a bill to ban high capacity magazines, like that used by the mass shooter in Dayton, Ohio.
However, Assembly records show that Bramnick voted against the bill on March 26, 2018, then he voted for the measure a month later, when it included Senate amendments allowing some gun owners to keep high capacity magazines.
A similar ban on high capacity magazines reached the Assembly floor for a vote on February 21, 2013 and May 22, 2014. Bramnick voted against both measurs, official records show.
Flip-flopping might only make Bramnick’s pro-gun record more noteworthy as his 100% National Rifle Association vote rating in 2017 and 2015 stand to cost more votes than they gain because widespread attention on gun violence and domestic terrorism.
Westfield came close to joining the ranks of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when the suburban Union County narrowly avered a tragedy in June.
Thomas J. Wilkie, 46, of Bear, Delaware, was arrested outside Tamaques Elementary School in Westfield after police learned an armed man was waiting in the parking lot, from a call by Delaware State Police, who were tipped off by the despondent man’s family members.
Authorities said Wilkie, who was found sitting in the front seat of a 2019 Mitsubishi SUV with a .45-caliber handgun loaded with hollow-point bulletshad two loaded clips on him and an additional 130 rounds of ammunition locked in the trunk of the vehicle.
While the gunman was taken into custody without incident, the circumstance may be politically fatal for a pro-gun lawmaker like Bramnick.
“Jon Bramnick voted against banning large-capacity magazines three times. Now he’s desperately trying to hide from his record by waving around a piece of paper saying he voted for it the fourth time,” said Alex Koren, campaign manager for Mandelblatt and Gunderman. “Bramnick is a shill for the gun lobby and his 100% rating from the NRA proves it.”
The 21st District has been represented by Republicans for most of the last 50 years, with the exception of 1973 and 1989, when Democratic Assembly members were elected in gubernatorial landslides led by Brendan Byrne and Jim Florio.
Among the 257 mass shootings across the United States this year, five people died in New Jersey and 44 others were injured in Paterson, Jersey City, Newark, Trenton, Paulsboro, North Bergen and Camden.
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