Gov. Phil Murphy, who made strong and sensible gun laws one of the pillars of his campaign, named Bill Castner as senior adviser on firearms Monday.
Castner left his position as senior vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to take the role.
Castner will serve pro bono until the end of the state’s fiscal year, June 30. In July, he is expected to be given a more formal position in the administration.
Castner brings unique qualifications to the role because of his extensive background in law, politics and business.
He also brings a passion on the issue of gun safety — and sees this as a unique opportunity to make a difference in that areas.
“This is an important window in time in which public attitudes are changing toward gun violence,” he told ROI-NJ on Monday afternoon. “We have a governor who his fully committed to making gun violence prevention a paramount issue.
“The window is now to try to take an aggressive and innovative approach with legislation, through using the state’s purchasing power and through trying to modernize regulations in order to try to combat this crisis.”
Castner said he not only will work with the Legislature, but with businesses across the state, hoping to persuade them to use the power of their purse strings to make change on this issue.
Castner has a long history of working on issues relating to firearms.
As chief counsel to Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009, Castner served in a lead role on the governor’s “one gun a month” legislation, which limited the purchase of handguns to one a month.
While he was at Gibbons P.C., Castner represented Americans for Responsible Solutions, which is now Giffords Law Center. He also worked on a pro bono basis representing families affected by the Sandy Hook mass shooting in Connecticut.
Murphy said Castner is the right person for the job.
“New Jersey is leading the nation in tackling the epidemic of gun violence that takes innocent lives daily,” Murphy said. “The creation of the States for Gun Safety coalition was only the beginning.
“Bill Castner will play an active role in enhancing the coalition and will help our administration to advance new common-sense gun measures and potential avenues for legal challenges to stop the scourge of gun violence. Leading the force for gun violence protection to build safer communities and protect families at the state level is of the utmost importance, and I am confident that Bill will generate ideas and solutions that will save lives.”
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who left office after being the victim of gun violence and co-founded Giffords Law Center, welcomed the announcement.
“Leadership requires courage and commitment,” she said. “While running for office, Phil Murphy committed to doing more to protect New Jersey families and communities. We stood by his side then and are proud to stand with him today as we announce a new effort to address the trauma and tragedy brought on by senseless gun violence.
“We are excited to partner with Gov. Murphy and Bill Castner to make sure New Jersey continues to be a national leader on gun safety. This is a model that will show others how we can take the fight against gun violence to the next level.”
Castner began his professional career drafting legislation for the Law & Public Safety division of the New Jersey Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services and later became a public interest attorney for the Fair Share Housing Center, where he litigated New Jersey’s affordable housing and civil rights laws.
In 2002, Assembly Speaker Albio Sires appointed Castner as the general counsel to the New Jersey General Assembly, where he served as the chief legislative adviser to that body. In 2006, Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. promoted Castner to executive director of the New Jersey General Assembly, where he helped advance legislative measures on gun violence prevention.
Corzine appointed Castner as chief counsel in 2009, where he provided legal advice to the governor on a wide variety of legislative, regulatory and policy measures; was responsible for judicial appointments; and drafted executive orders. Castner served a lead role in the passage of New Jersey’s one gun a month law in 2009.
Castner was appointed by Roberts in 2010 to serve on New Jersey’s State Commission of Investigation. In 2011, Castner was appointed chief counsel to the Democratic members of the New Jersey Apportionment Commission and, in 2012, as chief counsel to the New Jersey Redistricting Commission.
Castner served as a partner at Gibbons, where he served as chair of the Government Affairs Department and practiced in the areas of corporate compliance, ethics, regulatory affairs and health care.
In 2015, Castner moved to Horizon, where he oversaw a team that worked on regulatory issues.