New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that William Castner Jr., an insurance industry executive, former governor’s chief counsel and onetime head of Gibbons’ lobbying group, will be the state’s new gun-control czar.
His title will be senior adviser to the governor on firearms.
Castner is the senior vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer. Before that, he was the chairman of Gibbons government affairs practice.
At present, Murphy and gun-control advocates in the Legislature are in the midst of attempting to marshal through legislation that would sharply restrict access to firearms, especially semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines. The administration has been pushing stricter gun-control measures in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The alleged killer, a teenager named Nikolas Cruz, was armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle.
Castner, Murphy said, will lead the administration’s effort to see that those measures pass.
Among legislative measures being pursued are bills that would regulate private gun sales; restrictions on how many firearms a person may purchase in a year; a limitation on the capacity of ammunition magazines; further restrictions on the ability to carry handguns; and further limitations on the ability for persons who have made threats about themselves or against others to obtain firearms.
“These are commonsense gun-control laws,” Murphy said during a news conference in announcing Castner’s appointment. “New Jersey will stand up the the gun lobby … in this senseless epidemic.”
“We will recognize this epidemic as it is, in strict contrast to what is going on in Washington,” Castner said.
Following the Florida school shooting, federal lawmakers discussed imposing some minor forms of gun control, but have thus far failed to take any action.
“New Jersey can pursue actions against bad actors,” Castner said.
One move New Jersey may consider, Castner said, is having the state’s investment funds divest themselves of investments in firearms manufacturers.
Castner began his career with the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, an arm of the state Legislature. In 2002, he was named general counsel to the New Jersey Assembly. He was tapped by Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009 to become his chief counsel. In 2010, he was appointed by Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts to the State Commission of Investigation. He served there for a year before being named chief counsel to the Democratic Apportionment Commission, and in 2012, he was named chief counsel to the New Jersey Redistricting Commission. He is a graduate of what is now Rowan University and Rutgers University Law School-Camden.