Santa Fe City Council set to vote on controversial "sensitive places" resolution

Santa Fe City Council set to vote on controversial "sensitive places" resolution
Mark Humphrey

If supporters get their way, it will soon be a felony offense for concealed carry licensees to bring their lawfully-owned firearm into Santa Fe’s City Hall, any of the town’s public libraries, the local convention center, and many other locations that would become “gun-free zones” under a resolution set for a vote this week.

As NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action describes, the council isn’t trying to craft an actual ordinance, but rather direct the city manager to post signs alerting the public to the the potential felony. According to ILA, however, the resolution relies on a grossly inaccurate interpretation of an existing state law to give it force.

According to the resolution’s preamble, anti-gun Mayor Alan Webber and gun control supporters on the Council are relying on an expansive interpretation of the definition of school premises in New Mexico state law that includes “any…. public buildings or grounds, including playing fields and parking areas that are not public school property, in or on which public school-related and sanctioned activities are being performed.” However, none of the provisions of the proposed Santa Fe resolution clearly limit the firearm prohibition to the time there is an actual school event or school activity occurring.

Further, the resolution also grants the city manager complete discretion to designate additional “gun-free zones” all over the city using their expansive definition of school premises to include any place any student might ever go or be present at, for anything related to school — potentially rendering law-abiding New Mexicans defenseless within significant parts of city limits.

This resolution is a blatant attempt to override state law AND Article II, Section 6 of the New Mexico Constitution, which prohibits any municipality from regulating an incident involving the right to keep and bear arms in any way.

Santa Fe isn’t the first municipality in the state to play these word games when it comes to concealed carry. Albuquerque officials tried to do the same thing back in 2020, but after two Black Lives Matter protestors were arrested at the city’s Civic Plaza on a weekend afternoon under the dubious premise that they were unlawfully carrying on a school premise (because, according to the city, students sometimes visit Civic Plaza on field trips), the local D.A. dropped the charges and actually requested an opinion of the city’s interpretation of the law by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

Though it’s been more than two years I’m not able to find any evidence that Balderas ever responded to the D.A. on the Attorney General’s online archive of opinions. I also haven’t been able to find any news stories indicating that Albuquerque police have made further arrests for supposed violations of the statute in the years since. My guess is that after the D.A. expressed reservations about the city’s policy it’s gone unenforced, while still remaining on the books.

If Santa Fe council members want the city to get sued over the egregiously inaccurate interpretation of a crystal-clear statute, they can grant themselves that wish on January 25th. I’m hoping, however, that they’ll be hearing from enough Santa Fe residents who aren’t happy about the council’s abuse of authority that they’ll hit the pause button on their attempt to subvert state law and the Second Amendment.