Democratic assembly candidate David Lande doesn’t toe the party line when it comes to gun control.
When he was running for State Senate in 2017, Lande’s campaign sent a mailer touting his high rating from the National Rifle Association alongside an endorsement by the state Policemen’s Benevolent Association. The NRA gave Lande an 86% rating that year.
“That was a mailing that the campaign had sent out that targeted about 3,000 Jackson residents,” Lande said. “It was about 3,000 or 4,000. It was the smallest of our mailings. It was dedicated basically, or sent to, purported gun owners in the Jackson area.”
Lande won 41% against State Sen. Samuel Thompson (R-Old Bridge) two years ago.
Now he’s one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nod to take on 12th district Assemblymen Ronald Dancer (R-Plumsted) and Rob Clifton (R-Matawan), both of whom the state PBA endorsed in 2017. He said he likely would not send such a mailer again this cycle.
“I don’t think that guns are a particular high priority issue right now,” Lande said. “On all the doors that I knock on, people are talking about property taxes. They’re talking about the climate and they’re talking about schools and school funding and marijuana … Since I’ve been knocking here and going around, not one person has raised this as an issue.”
But while he may not lean on opposition to gun control as a campaign issue in a district where Democrats — let alone liberal Democrats — don’t win, Lande hasn’t made an about-face on the issue.
Though Lande said he would not vote to repeal any of the state’s current gun control laws, which are among the strictest in the nation, he was cagey about his support for specific measures.
“Well, I don’t know what all of the gun laws are that are presently in place, so I don’t necessarily have a particular position on one or another particular general concept relating to guns,” Lande said when asked whether he supported a ban on high-capacity magazines. “Again, it comes down to each individual bill that I would look at and determine whether or not I think this helps reduce gun violence.”
A New Jersey law passed last year outlawed magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition for most gun owners.
In 2017, Lande said on his campaign website that such a measure would do nothing to reduce gun violence.
“Stricter gun control laws simply make politicians look good in the eyes of constituents but they do nothing to quell gun violence because they fail to address the root causes of gun violence; poverty, lack of educational and employment opportunities, crime, mental health issues and domestic abuse,” Lande’s website said. “So for example, a law reducing gun magazine rounds (a bill recently introduced that was defeated) would have no impact on reducing gun violence.”
Lande has since moderated that stance somewhat, saying that, should he make it to the Assembly, he’d individually consider each gun control bill that came before him.
It isn’t as though Lande, a workers compensation attorney and retired Army JAG officer, opposes all — or even most — gun control measures.
He said he supported New Jersey’s assault weapons ban and the federal ban on bump stocks passed last year following a 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas nightclub that left 58 dead.
But while Lande views gun control as a tool to curb gun violence, he believes it’s not the only method that ought to be considered.
“There’s a difference between gun ownership and gun violence,” Lande said. “Gun control could affect both, but they’re different concepts in my mind.”
Lande, a former gun owner who sold his firearm in 1991, said lawmakers should seek to address what he said were root causes of gun violence.
“If we’re going to put a bill forward that deals with something relating to say gun ownership, are we also putting a bill forward that allocates more resources for impoverished cities to deal with gun violence? Lande said. “Are we allocating more resources towards mental health issues relating to gun violence? Are we allocating more resources toward domestic violence issues, towards reducing gun violence? The conversation has to about all of these things.”
Guns as an issue may play a role in deciding whether Lande wins the Democratic nod in the 12th legislative district.
The Middlesex County Democratic Committee awarded Lande and Malini Guha, a member of the Matawan Environmental Commission, the organization line Monday. They beat out Gene Davis, a former Linden councilman who ran against Clifton and Dancer in 2017.
Monmouth County Democrats are holding their convention Saturday. Democrats from Ocean and Burlington counties also have yet to select their candidates.