This is a refreshing change of pace from the city councils and county boards in Democratic-dominated parts of the country that are regularly banning lawfully possessed firearms from government property. In the tiny town of Estancia, New Mexico outside of Albuquerque, the town council recently voted to require that all those attending future meetings be armed.
Mayor Nathan Dial says the vote was meant to send a message to Democrats in Santa Fe, who’ve been busy passing gun control laws like universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders over the past few years while ignoring the voices of rural residents.
“Rural New Mexico is just tired of being pushed around,” Dial told the Albuquerque Journal as he sat in town hall with a snub nose .357 on his hip. “This is not just about the Second Amendment. This is about all civil liberties.”
But Morrow Hall, one of the two Estancia Board of Trustee members who voted against the rule, said it’s just a stunt, a staged event, the mayor’s reaction to a ban on bringing deadly weapons into the state Capitol building.
“I told the mayor, ‘I can’t support your rule. It’s crazy,’” Hall said last week. “He said, ‘I know it’s crazy. But it’s also crazy I can’t carry a gun into the Roundhouse.’ ”
Hall said he doesn’t understand why anyone would need to bear arms in the Roundhouse.
“To me, that means going in to fight,” he said. “I don’t know who you would fight at the Roundhouse that you would need a firearm.”
Let’s count the absurdities here. First, if someone is going in to the state capitol building looking for armed combat, I doubt they’re going to be dissuaded by the presence of a “no guns allowed” sign. Secondly, it’s ridiculous to assume that all those lawfully carrying a firearm are doing so because they’re looking for a fight. It’s quite the opposite, actually. We’re looking to protect ourselves.
So why would any one need to protect themselves in the Roundhouse in Santa Fe? I’ll admit that the likelihood of being the victim of a violent crime inside the capitol building is far lower than on a downtown street in Albuquerque, but don’t forget that those individuals who are (or were) legally carrying in the capitol were doing so in many cases because they were concerned for their safety on their way to and from the building itself. A staffer may be perfectly comfortable being unarmed in her office, while still wanting to be able to protect herself as she walks to her car after a late night at the office.
As for the new requirement that attendees of the Estancia Town Council be armed, Dial says the language is broad enough to encompass someone who’s only “armed with knowledge,” but that’s not stopping the threat of a lawsuit if the language takes effect.
Nov. 30 is the deadline the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has set for Estancia to rescind the rule or get sued “for constitutional and statutory violations.”
“This new rule put forth by the Town of Estancia unequivocally violates the First Amendment,” reads a letter sent by ACLU New Mexico to Dial and the town’s Board of Trustees. “The law will deter community members from attending town council meetings to petition their local government, thus creating a chilling effect on the exercise of their fundamental rights under the First Amendment.”
… The rule reads: “In order to attend an Estancia Town Council meeting, one must be legally Armed. By entering this meeting, you acknowledge that you are prepared to defend yourself and beliefs with what you believe is necessary to do so. (This definition is at the discretion of the Executive Branch.)
“Any and all Religious, Medical or Ethical exceptions will be honored without question.”
Dial said he never intended for the rule to keep people from exercising their right to attend public meetings.
“I don’t want anyone to be afraid to show up,” he said. “If they don’t want to carry a firearm that’s their constitutional right.”
The mayor said the rule is intended only to make clear that the town has no intention of enacting a ban on weapons at public meetings as the state has done at the Capitol.
You’d think the ACLU would have better things to do (like actually defending the Second Amendment, for example), but I guess Dial isn’t the only one looking to make some headlines.
I have no idea what the courts will do with Estancia’s rule if it does take effect, but I’m looking forward to seeing the ACLU argue that it somehow has standing to sue over language that is largely symbolic and provides plenty of reasons to opt out. Even if the ACLU does somehow force the town to remove the new rule, however, it can’t make the town council adopt a gun ban of its own. The Democrats in Santa Fe may be obsessed with limiting the right to keep and bear arms, but the Second Amendment is alive and well in Estancia and many other communities across New Mexico.