Commentary: During the 2014 session, I wrote a column poking fun at the fact that the New Mexico Legislature was finally getting serious about gum control.
Janitors at the Roundhouse were complaining that the sticky globs were being left underneath desks and chairs, and, even worse, on the floor where they would inevitably be stepped on and affix themselves to the bottom of someone’s shoe – perhaps someone important like a senator or representative.
And so, signs were posted and the sergeant at arms was alerted to be on the lookout for any chewing violations.
While gums (spearmint, bubble ... all kinds) were out that year, guns have always been welcome inside the Roundhouse. All kinds of guns, whether concealed discretely or displayed proudly. Gun-totters are as common in the hallways of the Roundhouse during the hustle and bustle of a legislative session as eager, young pages or desperate, old lobbyists.
State Police officers are stationed at both entrances as you come into the Roundhouse. But their job seems to be to offer directions and help open the door for those bringing in large boxes. Those bringing in all manner of firearms don’t get a second look.
I attended a committee meeting that year on a bill that would have restricted guns inside the Roundhouse. It was well attended by those demonstrating their second amendment rights without speaking a word.
Local residents who attended a more recent Las Cruces City Council meeting on guns had the same experience — a public debate against opponents who came armed with more than just facts or logic.
The bill that attracted armed opposition in the committee meeting was defeated. Because of restrictions in the state Constitution, the only way the City Council can discuss the issue of guns without allowing armed participants is to move their meeting to someplace outside of City Hall.
But this year, with gun-snatching Democrats in charge of the everything in state government, things were bound to change at the Legislature. And, sure enough, leaders voted last week to beef up security during the session.
As reported by Dan McKay in the Albuquerque Journal, the new rules will now prohibit firearms in the Roundhouse. But, only rifles. And, only on the first day of the session. Concealed carry will still be allowed. And, for the next 59 days of the 60-day session, it will be back to business as usual.
House Speaker Brian Egolf said the new rules are for public safety, but they would seem to be directed more at preventing the kind of protests that took place last year during the State of the State address of Gov. Susana Martinez. Police will be doing bag checks on the first day only. Among the things they will be looking for are large signs.
Police will also be stationed in the gallery during the session. But once again, the concern seems to be more about protest or disruptions than public safety.
The Journal story announcing the changes came out Friday. I eagerly await the anguished response arguing that banning long rifles from the State of the State address is the first step to total confiscation.
Walter Rubel is editorial page editor of the Sun-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org