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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he's "willing to have that conversation" about stricter gun laws, but that policymakers also must address the mental health system, improve access to drug treatment and look at the impact of violent video games.
Christie made the comments on NBC's "Today" show, one of five national television appearances he was making Wednesday morning, one day after his annual State of the State address.
On "Today," Christie was asked about his 1995 call for a support on assault weapons in New Jersey. He says that should be up to states to decide and pointed out that New Jersey's gun laws are the second strictest in the nation, next to New York.
Pressed by NBC's Matt Lauer to say whether he would support a federal assault weapons ban, Christie said it would depend on the other components of the law -- and that talking only about guns ignores a vital part of the debate.
"This young man in Connecticut was obviously seriously mentally ill," Christie said of Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old man who forced his way into a Newtown elementary school last month and fatally shot 20 first-grade students and six educators before killing himself. "Why do we have such a stigma about mental illness treatment? Why aren't we talking about substance abuse? If we don't deal with the mental health and substance abuse issues that lead to violence, we're shortchanging this conversation."
Asked about the state of national party politics, Christie said that losing the last two presidential elections shows Republicans "need to be thinking about doing something different."
Christie preempted any suggestions about his role in that potential change, reiterating his top priority is being governor of New Jersey.