New Mexico Dems divided on "assault weapons" ban?

New Mexico Dems divided on "assault weapons" ban?
AP Photo/Morgan Lee

With one week left to go in the New Mexico legislative session, several anti-gun bills are still on the move and are likely to reach Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. But as it turns out, the governor’s big ask to lawmakers isn’t sitting well with some members of the Democratic caucus in Santa Fe.


The Huffington Post highlighted the Dems’ divide over the weekend, spinning the reluctance of some lawmakers to approve a ban on so-called assault weapons on the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen and legislator’s supposed desire to stay on the right side of the Constitution.

New Mexico’s legislative session last month opened with gun reform high on the agenda. After a string of politically motivated shootings at the homes of Democratic legislators in Albuquerque, Gov. Michelle Luján Grisham (D) called for a series of firearm restrictions, including an assault weapons ban, in her State of the State speech in January.

But with a week left to go before the session ends, lawmakers are cautiously approaching gun bills and are wary of passing laws that will run afoul of a Supreme Court that has taken a firm stance on the side of gun rights. The legislature is likely to pass some gun reform before the session ends, but lawmakers say an assault weapons ban would be unlikely to hold up in court, and they’re uncertain about a proposal to raise the age to buy some types of firearms from age 18 to 21.

“What I hope we don’t do is lead the public into believing we’re doing something, knowing full well that what we’re doing is unlikely to really have an effect,” Joseph Cervantes, the state Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said at the hearing last month. “I think that’s a disservice to people.”

The flagging reform push in New Mexico highlights how the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, which overturned a narrow provision of New York’s concealed carry law, isn’t just overturning gun restrictions ― it’s also blocking them from passing in the first place.

“That Bruen ruling is going to hurt us for decades to come,” said Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. “It’s going to be the excuse of every conservative Democrat who doesn’t want to pass common-sense gun laws.”


We can only hope that’s the case; not only in New Mexico but in states like Minnesota as well, where Democrats hold a one-seat majority in the state Senate.

To be honest, though, I’m not entirely convinced that Bruen is the sole reason for the rather cool reception the governor’s gun ban request as received at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. Democrats have passed a steady stream of anti-gun bills over the past few years, including “universal” background checks and “red flag” laws, but none of the new gun control laws has put a dent in the state’s steady rise in terms of violent crimes. I’d like to think that lawmakers are starting to question the underlying premise of their anti-gun philosophy, but maybe that’s too optimistic on my part. After all, there are several gun control bills that could win final passage this week, including a gun storage bill and legislation designed to make it easier to sue gun manufacturers and firearm retailers over the acts of criminals.

Hopefully we can celebrate New Mexico’s legislature adjourning without approving an “assault weapons” ban at the end of the week, but it’s still a little early to break out the party hats. Still, it’s always a good sign when gun control activists are complaining about reluctant lawmakers; whether it’s Bruen that has them skittish, doubts about the benefit of a gun ban, or just concerns over the political fallout over prohibiting commonly-owned firearms. I’d love for lawmakers to see the light when it comes to criminalizing the exercise of a fundamental right, but at the very least Second Amendment advocates in the state are making them feel the heat.


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