Lujan Grisham overstepped her bounds when she issued an emergency order in September banning guns in all public places in Bernalillo County. While gun violence is an emergency, it is one that must be addressed by the Legislature. No governor should have the unilateral powers that Lujan Grisham granted to herself.
Instead of claiming authority she doesn’t have, Lujan Grisham must do a better job of leveraging the power she does have. Under New Mexico's antiquated system, the governor controls the agenda during a 30-day session. Any bill not dealing with the budget must get her blessing to be heard.
Lujan Grisham should use that power to clear the agenda next year and ensure that gun bills get a full hearing and can’t be dismissed with the traditional excuse of, we just ran out of time.
It’s going to be an uphill battle. Opponents of gun safety laws are well organized and experienced. If gun safety is just a priority among a long list of priorities, it will fail again.
Only two meaningful gun bills have been passed during the previous five sessions when Lujan Grisham was governor: one in 2019 requiring universal background checks and one in 2020 allowing the courts to temporarily remove firearms from individuals in emergency circumstances.
To her credit, Lujan Grisham has continued working to address the problem after her ban was slapped down by the courts. In November, she renewed the executive order on guns, without the unconstitutional ban.
At that time she touted progress that had been made in Albuquerque, including 86 gun seizures and 1.441 arrests. There were three gun buy-back events, including one in Las Cruces. Gun owners could get a $200 gift card, even if the gun didn’t work.
I don’t fault the effort. But the real work needs to be happening behind the scenes in drafting bills that will make a meaningful difference and have a chance of getting through a Legislature that is progressive on most issues, but timid when it comes to guns.
Lujan Grisham said she was moved to issue the emergency order following the shooting deaths of three teenagers during a 39-day period. The happy truth is, New Mexico has never had the kind of mass shooting that will forever identify communities like Uvalde, Parkland and Newtown. We do have the third-highest rate of gun violence in the nation, but our tragedies have been less spectacular.
The sad truth is, our time will come. El Paso has felt the pain. We’re not immune.
The sadder truth is, it may take the same kind of horror that struck the El Paso Walmart before our lawmakers will act. The saddest truth is, even that might not be enough.
It wasn’t in Texas.
Walter Rubel can be reached at email@example.com.
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