For the first couple of weeks of New Mexico’s 30-day session, it looked like Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was going to get virtually everything she’d asked lawmakers to pass this year; a 14-business-day waiting period on firearm transfers, expanding the state’s “red flag” law, banning gun sales to under-21s, and a state-level version of the ban on gas-operated semi-automatic long guns introduced in Congress by New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich.
Grisham’s anti-gun agenda sailed through committees in both the House and Senate on party-line votes, but when the session gaveled to a close on Thursday only two of the governor’s hand-picked infringements were on their way to her desk, and both of those had been watered down to exempt concealed carry holders… you know, the very folks that t he governor blames for the state’s woeful violent crime rate.
The governor’s waiting period bill was whittled down to 7 days, and an amendment exempting concealed carry holders from any waiting period at all was included in the final version of the legislation. Her ban on carrying firearms at polling sites survived as well, but once again concealed carry holders were exempted from the prohibition. But the Democrat-controlled legislature didn’t actually kill off the other parts of her extensive gun control agenda; they just decided not to bring the bills up for a vote on the House and Senate floors, and now Grisham’s threatening to bring lawmakers back to Santa Fe for a special session.
During a news conference Thursday, Lujan Grisham said a special public safety session isn’t off the table, a chance to reconvene lawmakers to possibly pass more legislation.
“I want to just say to New Mexicans, I don’t think it’s safe out there,” Lujan Grisham said. “And I don’t think that they think it’s safe out there.” She said she’s frustrated with the House and Senate for a lack of more progress on her priorities for the 30-day session that ended at noon Thursday.
Lujan Grisham also mentioned legislation during the news conference that would require people to be at least 21 years old to buy automatic or semiautomatic guns. It sat on the House calendar, and the floor never actually heard it. Like the other measures, it’s not clear if it would come up again in a public safety special session.
Other gun control measures that failed to pass include an assault weapons ban, changes to the Extreme Risk Protection Order and a bill intended to keep the firearm industry accountable.
Lujan Grisham said the most important gun safety bill made it to her desk, which is a waiting period on firearm purchases. Another bill, to keep guns out of polling places, also passed both chambers, with an amendment to exempt people with concealed carry licenses.
Lujan Grisham didn’t say when a special session might occur. If New Mexicans have other ideas on public safety measures, she said, she’s interested in hearing them.
“Stay tuned,” she said. “There’s another way to get at this.”
Now, it should be noted that Grisham said basically the same thing last year, when her fellow Democrats failed to deliver her gun control package to her office. That special session never took place, likely because the governor heard from House and Senate leaders that if the bills were brought up for votes on the floor of those chambers, they’d go down in flames.
I suspect the same is true this year. Most of the anti-2A legislation she was demanding passed out of committee in the early days of the month-long session, giving them plenty of time to be brought up on the floor, but instead they were kept in a holding pattern until the session gaveled to a close Thursday afternoon. HB 1114, for instance, which is the bill intended to make it easier to sue the firearms industry over the criminal misuse of guns, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on the 4th day of the 30-day session, but that was the last time the bill saw any movement. The governor’s gun ban cleared the same committee on Day 6 of the session, and then it too stalled out.
It doesn’t appear that this was a case of lawmakers running out of time to adopt Grisham’s anti-2A wishlist, but rather a lack of interest on the part of at least some rural Democrats in both the House and Senate. Grisham may still be dumb enough to call for a special session even though there’s no guarantee that legislators will give her what she wants, but I suspect that just like last year, her talk of a special session won’t actually come to fruition.
Grisham’s already tried to unilaterally enact a concealed carry ban through an executive order, so maybe that will be her “another way” to get what she’s been demanding. If she tries that, however, she’s going to get smacked down by the courts in short order. Again, she may be dumb enough to try to pull off another stunt like her ban on concealed carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. I just don’t think she’s going to have much success if she tries to impose her anti-gun legislative package through executive orders.
What Grisham should do is take a step back and ponder the political reality that she’s simply out of step with what most New Mexicans want when it comes to public safety; going after criminals, not lawful gun owners and the right to keep and bear arms. I doubt that’s gonna happen either, unfortunately, so we’ll be watching to see what the gun-grabbing governor’s next steps will be in the coming days.