New Mexico Democrats have defied Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, tabling legislation that she was backing in the 30-day session underway in Santa Fe over concerns about its constitutionality, but it wasn’t one of the numerous and clearly unconstitutional gun control measures they defeated. Instead, it was a Republican-authored bill supported by Grisham that was aimed at stopping the revolving door of the criminal justice system.
I’ve yet to hear a Democrat in Santa Fe raise any sort of alarm over the gun bills Grisham is demanding, from the ban on gas-operated semi-automatic long guns to the 14-business-day waiting period for firearm transfers. But SB 122, which would have made it harder for defendants accused of violent crimes to bond out of jail before trial, was apparently too much for Grisham’s fellow Democrats.
Some Democratic lawmakers questioned its constitutionality. “I do think it’s just a waste of time to go through this pass this, and have it declared unconstitutional,” said Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, a Democrat representing the Albuquerque area.
But others argue it’s a method used by federal courts use and accused offenders are still innocent until proven guilty. “People are I think conflating the idea that a presumption is a presumption of guilt,” said. Sen. Gregg Schmedes (R-Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe & Torrance), “We are not determining innocence or guilt in a pretrial hearing. What is presumed is that someone is a danger to the community. We’re not presuming they are guilty.”
Sedillo Lopez didn’t express those same reservations when SB 69 was brought up in the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee over the weekend. The New Mexico Shooting Sports Association reported that the bill, which would establish the longest waiting period in the nation on gun transfers, advanced to the Senate floor after a party-line vote.
As it turns out, even when Sedillo Lopez did express reservations about a gun control measure, she still ended up voting for it. Last session a bill banning the manufacture, sale, barter, trade, gift, transfer, or acquisition of automatic firearms and semi-automatic firearms that can be “readily converted” was introduced, and the senator put aside her concerns in favor of advancing the gun control measure when it came before her and the Health and Public Affairs Committee.
Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said early in the discussion she worried the bill was “extremely broad.”
“I’ve worked on gun bills and what I’ve learned is it’s very, very difficult to thread the needle of what is constitutionally permissible and what is not,” she said.
Sedillo Lopez voted to advance the bill, nonetheless.
“I voted yes because I think reducing gun violence in our state is an important policy,” she said before advising the sponsor, Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, to work on improving the bill before he presents it to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
After the vote to table SB 122, Sen. Craig Brandt, who was one of the sponsors of the bill, declared that “progressive Democrats from Albuquerque stood on the side of criminals and left the safety and security of our communities in jeopardy,” adding, “these legislators say they are committed to addressing New Mexico’s crime crisis, but votes like this expose their words are nothing more than lip service.”
I’d say it’s actually worse than that. These legislators are blaming violent crime on the New Mexicans who are exercising a fundamental civil right while refusing to take even the most modest steps to prevent those accused of violent crimes from quickly being released on bond. Lawful gun owners are presumed guilty of fueling the violence perpetrated by gang members and drug dealers, while those arrested for shootings, armed robberies, and other violent offenses are presumed to pose no threat to their communities.
It sure looks like Sedillo Lopez and her colleagues believe the best way to reduce “gun violence” is to go after lawful gun owners instead of targeting those accused of violent crimes, no matter how constitutionally questionable those gun control measures might be. So far, virtually every gun control bill backed by Grisham has received a warm reception from her fellow Democrats in the Roundhouse. It’s the bills aimed at individuals accused of violent crimes that they’re objecting to. That’s not only a terrible way to fight crime, but a great way to get the state sued… and right now it looks like this session is going to lead to multiple lawsuits from gun owners and 2A advocates when it’s gaveled to a close.