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Three years of absolute power under an emergency order issued during the Covid-19 pandemic have apparently convinced Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that democracy is overrated.
Last week the governor bypassed the state Legislature and acted unilaterally to pass a 30-day gun ban in Bernalillo County. The ban will outlaw both open and concealed carry in all public places, even by those with a state-issued concealed carry license.
The governor said she was spurred to action following the shooting deaths of three teenagers, on July 28, Aug. 14 and Sept. 6. That’s three deaths over a 39-day period. The city of Memphis had nearly as many fatal shootings (306) as days on the calendar in 2021.
Lujan Grisham acknowledged law enforcement has reservations about her ban. A spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department said they are in contact with federal authorities as to how and if they can enforce it.
“I welcome the debate and fight about how to make New Mexicans safer,” Lujan Grisham said. Unfortunately, that fight will come in a courtroom and not on the floor of the state Senate and House of Representatives.
To be clear, I support what the governor is trying to do. I’m as outraged as she is at the senseless gun violence that takes place every day in our nation. The notion that the solution to gun violence is more guns makes as much sense as saying the solution to a plague of locusts is more locusts.
And, I’ve followed the Legislature for long enough to know how frustrating it can be when it comes to guns. Two meaningful gun safety bills have been passed under Lujan Grisham. One requires background checks on all sales, the other allows a court order to temporarily remove guns in a crisis situation. Passing both was like pulling teeth … with chopsticks.
But that’s how the process has to work. Sen. Joseph Cervantes had a bill this year that would have imposed a 14-day waiting period on gun sales. But it wasn’t a top priority for the governor, and it never made it to the Senate floor.
Democrats may be grateful that this governor is taking action where the Legislature has failed, but they should be mindful of recent history showing New Mexico voters are much more likely to elect a Republican governor than a Republican majority in the House or Senate.
Ultimately, this will be decided at the ballot box. In the past, those opposed to any changes to gun laws have always been the loudest voices in the room. That needs to change, starting next November.
Voters who want common-sense gun laws need to fix this ourselves.
Walter Rubel is a freelance journalist based in Las Cruces. His 40-plus-year career includes work in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and— since 2002 — in New Mexico, covering Las Cruces and the state Legislature. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Las Cruces Bulletin. Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.