Even before last week’s tragic shooting in Aurora, and the rush of commentary it has aroused, I’d been thinking about the legislature’s total abdication to everything NRA. There’s a chapter on this very thing in the book I am now writing about the New Mexico Senate. Now it’s déjà vu all over again in Colorado and you’ve got to wonder whether New Mexico is next. New Mexico’s gun laws are so liberal. You can carry any kind of loaded gun as long as it is not concealed if you are not a felon or are over 19 years old. No permits, licenses, training, registration or fingerprinting are required for the possession or purchasing of rifles, shotguns or handguns. And if you have a gun—you can take it almost everywhere except federal buildings, courthouses, buses, bars and pre schools. And we’re not even talking concealed weapons here. State law now enables 24,000 licensees (at least they’re trained) to carry concealed weapons into movie theatres, banks, child care centers, churches, liquor stores, restaurants and-- as of 2010-- bars which serve food.
As far as I’m concerned, New Mexico lost its way on guns back in the early 2000s. In the wake of the Columbine shooting, New Mexicans, like the rest of the nation, were much more interested in gun control, particularly given our high rates of youth suicide and homicide). In 2001, in the name of child safety, Rep. Gail Chasey and I were successful in passing a “trigger lock” bill to prevent accidents resulting from unsafe storage of weapons, especially handguns. But Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed it and the legislature instead passed a concealed carry law, which, after initially being ruled unconstitutional (the NM Constitution states “Nothing her in shall be construed to permit the carrying of concealed weapons), went into effect in 2003. The NRA has spent tons since that time to weaken training requirements, and lower the qualifying age. And they have been successful. They’ve also been trying, with the help of their allies in ALEC, to get the legislature to adopt a “stand your ground” bill like the one so famous in Florida’s Trayvon Martin case. We already have these rights embedded in the NM constitution, but for the NRA, no matter. It would be another notch in the belt.
The Democrats lost their huevos on this one long ago, on the federal level, and when pro-gun Richardson became Governor, the funding for all the advocacy efforts dried up. Moms on a Mission, the mothers of three boys killed in the East Mountains who came to help us lobby for safety,have disbanded. The families of other victims are now just support groups--- not rabble rousers asking why anyone should be guaranteed the right to carry a 100-round a minute assault rifle like the ones used in the Virginia Tech shooting, and now Aurora.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side of the aisle our Governor tweets about her perfect aim and great performance on the Concealed Carry test. And the Republican stronghold of Catron County has had a law on the books since 1994 requiring heads of households to maintain a firearm and the ammunition to use it.
For the past decade there have only been about eight or nine of us on the floor of the Senate resisting the flood of guns everywhere-- or even complaining about the fact that citizens are now carrying guns in the Roundhouse. Not even the shooting of Gabby Gifford, or Albuquerque’s Emcore tragedy provokes a rational discussion here in the Wild West.
What a surprise! It’s the policy of the NRA, with approximately 30,000 members in New Mexico, not to discuss shootings like the one in Aurora. After all, people are crazy and it would happen anyway. What you gonna do? Wait until we’ve solved everyone’s unresolved psychological issues, I guees. Meanwhile, it could happen to your kids.