Gun control and policing go together like thunder and lightning. You can’t have the one without the other. Every gun control law on the books must be enforced by agents of the state, or else what good is it? Unless gun control activists are willing to admit that their policy goals are meant to be nothing more than empty symbolism and not an actual statute subject to arrest, prosecution, fines and/or prison time, then they have to acknowledge that police are an inherent part of any “effective” gun control regime.
Well, they don’t have to. They could choose to be just as willfully blind to reality as New Mexicans Against Gun Violence co-founder Miranda Viscoli. In an interview with NPR’s Martin Kaste about Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health order suspending the right to carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County and the backlash it inspired, Viscoli had a decidedly weird concern about the impact that Grisham’s order and the ensuring legal fight will have going forward.
Gun safety advocates worry that this kind of legislation will be harder to pass, now, given the uproar over the governor’s attempt to ban guns.
“I don’t think that was her intent,” says Miranda Viscoli, co-president of the group New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. “I think her intent was heartfelt. There’s too much gun violence in this city, and open and concealed carry is not making us any safer.”
Viscoli worries that, without a broad gun ban, all that will be left of the emergency order is more policing.
“I hope it’s not just about more incarceration,” she says. “We are now putting another $57 million into police recruitment. Well, what about $57 million in trauma centers? What about $57 million getting more social workers into schools?”
Viscoli’s fretting over the future of gun control legislation makes sense, at least from her perspectiveand I hope she’s right that Grisham’s carry ban will make it more difficult to move anti-gun bills through the legislature next session.
Her concern about “more policing”, on the other hand, is downright laughable. The governor’s ban on open and concealed carry was fundamentally about more policing… or at least it would have been if she could have gotten a single law enforcement agency to go along with it. Yes, Grisham’s “emergency” order subjects violators to a fine and not jail time, but enforcement is still the responsibility of police, even under the more narrow ban on lawful carry in parks and playgrounds that a federal judge has allowed to take effect.
Viscoli has routinely backed legislation aimed at legal gun owners that require police to enforce, from a ban on so-called “assault weapons” that passed the New Mexico House but failed to make it out of the state Senate earlier this year to a proposed 14-day waiting period on lawful transfers of firearms that died without a committee hearing last session. What Viscoli takes issue with are laws that focus on violent offenders, like a 2018 bill that increased the sentences for violent felons caught illegally possessing a gun.
Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, supports the bipartisan package overall. But she said research shows that bumping up this possession penalty isn’t going to help anything. “Look, if a felon knows that they’re not supposed to be possessing a firearm and they can go to prison for it, they’re not going to say ‘Oh, now that I’ll be in prison for 18 more months, I’m not going to buy that firearm.’ It’s just not going to happen,” she said. “It just makes it look like we’re passing gun violence prevention laws when we’re really not.”
Seems to me that Viscoli’s a fan of policing when the power of the state is directed at lawful gun owners, but not when the focus is on repeat, violent offenders. That puts her out of step with most New Mexicans as well as the Constitution, even if she still has an ally in the governor’s office.