image from Claire Chase for Congress
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham hasn’t even signed the red flag bill that was narrowly approved by the state legislature this month, but already several Republican candidates in the state are using the legislation to bolster their campaigns. The issue has recently come up in New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district, where freshman Democrat Rep. Xochitl Torres Small will face off against whoever wins a crowded Republican primary.
From the Las Cruces Sun:
During a recent town hall in Belen, Torres Small danced around questions about impeachment and a proposed red flag law that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.
“You don’t want a federal person telling the state what to do,” she said.
As the paper points out, Torres Small only won election by about 3,000 votes in 2018, in a district that’s traditionally been fairly conservative. Republicans in the state believe that with President Trump on the ballot, they can take back the district, and pro-Second Amendment messaging is a key part of the strategies of several of the Republicans in the primary. Claire Chase, for instance, recently released an online ad showing her taking aim at a red flag, and her campaign followed that video with another released on Monday touting her support for the right to keep and bear arms.
Torres Small cut a campaign ad in 2018 that featured her shooting a rifle as well, which was part of her strategy to promote herself as a centrist Democrat. Once elected, however, the freshman representative turned around and voted for a universal background check bill, though she voted against expanding the time the FBI has to conduct a background check from three to ten days.
“Like a majority of gun owners across America, I believe in common sense gun safety measures, which is why I supported HR 8,” Torres Small said in a news release issued Wednesday. “While protecting our 2nd amendment rights, this bill ensures that dangerous individuals can no longer exploit the gun-show loophole to buy a gun while also making smart exemptions to prevent burdensome regulations for transfers between family and friends. The measures in this bipartisan bill strike a balance that will help to keep our communities safe and our rights protected.”
Will that be a winning message in NM-2 this year? I kind of doubt it, especially with her mealy-mouthed response to red flag laws, which are opposed by the vast majority of New Mexico sheriffs as well as the rank and file of the state’s largest police force, not to mention the thousands of gun owners who lobbied against the bill at the state capitol in Santa Fe this year.
No matter who ends up winning the Republican nomination, expect them to go after Torres for her support for HR8 and her lukewarm statements on red flag legislation. I suspect that the new red flag law will be an even bigger issue in state legislative races, and could very well cost some Democrats their seats in the more rural parts of the state.