In a somewhat surprising move, the Albuquerque City Council did the right thing on Monday night by rejecting a pair of local gun control bills that would have violated the state’s firearm preemption law, despite pressure from anti-gun activists and Mayor Tim Keller to adopt the local ordinances in the name of public safety.
One measure would have required legal gun owners to keep their firearms under lock and key unless it was under the direct control of the gun owner. City Council President Pat Davis said the measure was designed to prevent guns from being stolen, but according to KRQE-TV, several council members objected to the language and wondered why the city would try to impose restrictions on legal gun owners instead of focusing efforts on stopping people from breaking into homes and cars in the first place.
“It seems strange we would put requirements on law-abiding citizens and yet we have criminals who have guns,” Councilor Trudy Jones said. “We, the honest law-abiding citizens, would be in the same category if we would not comply.”
The last bill, which makes it illegal to bring a gun onto any city property, was also shot down as councilors said responsible gun owners have the right to defend themselves. “I don’t feel safe,” Councilor Brook Bassan said. “I want to be sure when we are in council chambers, if somebody comes in to attack us, I hope the good guys are there to protect us.”
I honestly didn’t expect either of these proposals to be rejected by the city council, but grassroots activism on the part of local gun owners may have played a key role in stiffening the spines of some city council members. Several of them reported that they’d received as many as 600 emails in opposition to the proposed ordinances, while only two residents sent in emails in support of the measures.
Gun control advocates, including Mayor Tim Keller, have been working hard over the past few months to curtail the Second Amendment rights of residents. Keller signed an executive order back in June that banned firearms from city parks, claiming that any public space that’s used by students or school groups (no matter how infrequently) is tantamount to an educational facility where guns are banned under state law. The move quickly drew criticism from 2A groups and Black Lives Matter protesters, and even the local district attorney has so far refused to prosecute those arrested for violating the ban.
Questions were raised about the ordinance after Black Lives Matter protester Frankie Grady was arrested for having a gun on Civic Plaza during a demonstration last month, but police charged him with carrying a firearm on school grounds. On Sunday, those charges were dismissed.
“I think the city is taking a position that they can apply this law to any public ground, and city property, where a school event may have once taken place or has once taken place, but obviously the district attorney’s office and I don’t agree,” said Ryan Villa, Grady’s attorney.
Court documents for Grady reveal that the district attorney’s office dropped the charges because they were concerned about the “constitutionality and the legal basis for the charge.”
District Attorney Raul Torrez reached out to the attorney general for guidance. A spokesperson from Torrez’s office sent KOB 4 the following statement:
“Before pursuing any criminal prosecution under the City’s recent administrative order banning firearms on Civic Plaza, we have asked the attorney general for a formal opinion on the constitutionality of that measure. As we await the attorney general’s opinion, we will continue to work with our public safety partners to ensure the proper balance between the right to peaceful assembly and the right to keep and bear arms.”
Attorney General Hector Balderas has yet to release his opinion of Keller’s administrative gun ban, but the mayor’s move is pretty clearly an attempt to do an end run around the Article II, Section 6 of the state constitution, which spells out that “No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms.”
Some members of the Albuquerque City Council even tried to pass a resolution calling for a referendum to amend the state constitution and remove the firearms preemption language, but the resolution was narrowly defeated 4-5 earlier this month.
The gun control ordinances rejected by council members on Monday night failed by a slightly larger margin, with just three votes to approve the measures and six council members opposed. Hopefully that’s a sign that the city council is done with their attempts to curtail the Second Amendment rights of residents, but as long as the mayor is still sucking up to Michael Bloomberg, gun owners in the city and across the state of New Mexico need to remain engaged and ready to push back against his next anti-gun scheme, whatever it may be.