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Progress on gun safety in New Mexico inches forward


After having her Bernalillo County gun ban overturned by the court, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tried to do it the right way, putting together an impressive public safety package of proposed legislation that addressed not only guns but also bail reform; sentencing; and police pay and recruitment.

If passed, it would have been a huge step toward addressing our state’s gun violence epidemic. New Mexico ranked seventh in the nation in gun deaths, according to a 2020 report by Johns Hopkins, which found that firearms were the leading cause of death for kids in our state (mostly suicides).

Sadly, our Legislature doesn’t move in huge steps. It moves in baby steps, when at all.

And so, only two gun bills were passed this year. One of them makes it illegal to bring firearms into a polling site, something I thought was already against the law. So, it was illegal to wear a campaign T-shirt while voting, but coming in with a rifle slung over both shoulders and a gun strapped to both hips was OK?

Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces was cosponsor of the only meaningful bill on gun safety to pass this year. It creates a new seven-day waiting period for the purchase of a gun, and was only passed after being watered down. The original bill called for a 14-day waiting period.

Proposals by the governor to demand greater accountability for gun manufacturers; increase the age to buy an assault rifle; and prohibit guns in municipal parks and playgrounds never made it to a vote.

Neither did other bills not on the governor’s list that would have reformed our red flag laws; banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; and created a new office of gun-violence prevention. Lawmakers even defeated a memorial that simply called for a study of such an office.

Gov. Lujan Grisham has suggested that she may call a special session to take a second bite of the apple. But, unless she is able to convince lawmakers to change their views, that will be a pointless exercise.

A look at the recorded votes on the waiting period bill that passed shows how challenging the issue is. The bill passed 37-33 in the House despite “no” votes by local Democrats Tara Jaramillo and Willie Madrid. It passed 23-18 in the Senate despite a “no” vote from local Democrat Siah Correa Hemphill.

The bill to ban guns at polling places was also opposed by those three Democrats and Rep. Raymundo Lara. Really? While I don’t agree with it, I do understand the argument against a waiting period in cases where someone is in immediate danger. What is the argument for why voters need weapons to participate in the peaceful transfer of power?

The governor has done all she could, but no one person can bring the changes that our state needs. That will ultimately be up to the voters. All seats in the House and Senate will be up for reelection this year.

One other item on the governor’s agenda was clearly related to the recent arrests of former NMSU basketball players. Three bills were introduced to make hazing a crime. None made it through the committee process.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com. Walter Rubel's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media.