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The Governor’s Record on Guns Is Long

A screen capture shows Governor Susana Martinez as she requalifies for a concealed carry permit. The permit has become like an American Express card for politicians.
A screen capture shows Governor Susana Martinez as she requalifies for a concealed carry permit. The permit has become like an American Express card for politicians.
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Susana Martinez has courted the gun crowd during her two years as governor.

Remember Martinez’s speech at the Republican National Convention in August when she talked about how, as a teenage security guard, she watched over a church bingo parking lot?

“I carried a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum,” the governor said in one of her red-meat lines, delivered with dramatic pause to much applause.

And let’s not forget that video last year that showed Martinez with handgun in hand at a shooting range, requalifying for her concealed carry permit.

The governor linked to the video on her Facebook page and Twitter account and cheerfully tweeted, “Chuck (that’s Martinez’s ex-cop husband) will never admit it, but I’m the better shot.”

By the way, Martinez first got her concealed carry permit in 2009, the year she announced her run for governor. A concealed carry permit has become like an American Express card for politicians; they don’t campaign without it.

But Martinez hasn’t been all style when it comes to guns.

She has supported allowing those who have concealed carry permits to bring their loaded handguns into state parks.

A law to allow concealed carry in parks died in the Legislature this year, but Martinez’s Parks Division is using its rule-making authority to permit concealed carry. The rule becomes effective New Year’s Day.

Martinez in March signed a repeal of a law that permitted New Mexico residents to buy firearms in contiguous states and residents of contiguous states to purchase firearms in New Mexico.

The National Rifle Association and others supported the repeal because some firearms dealers interpreted the law as prohibiting New Mexico residents from buying firearms in noncontiguous states.

Martinez also has opposed a state law that would close the so-called gun show loophole, which allows private sales of firearms to take place without buyer background checks. Private sales account for about half of all gun transactions.

Not long after taking office in January 2011, Martinez agreed to serve as the Republican vice chairwoman for the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus, which is financed in part by the NRA and the firearms industry.

The Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus is a group of about 20 governors from both parties who support policies and regulations that promote and protect hunting and fishing and advance “sound” wildlife management.

Martinez last year appointed a state game commissioner – Farmington businessman Robert Espinoza Sr. – who, as the head of an obscure sportsmen’s group, has promoted coyote-killing contests as a way “to have some fun as well as a chance to win some great prizes.”

Of course, Martinez isn’t the first elected official to recognize there is potential political gain in catering to gun enthusiasts. Her predecessor, Bill Richardson, also made clear to voters than he supported gun rights.

After the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Martinez said last week, “We have a long way to go as a society in recognizing and battling mental health issues.”

She also said she would pursue legislation “to make clear that the state must accurately and promptly provide information on people who have been found mentally ill by a court or who have been involuntarily committed to an institution.”

That remark by the governor was puzzling because the Administrative Office of the Courts in 2011 began providing the names of people declared mentally ill or institutionalized to the national background check system for firearm purchases.

The AOC started reporting the names because the state Department of Public Safety, both under Martinez and Richardson, had refused to do so. The department said it didn’t have legal authority to report the names.

The Department of Public Safety remains the primary state agency reporting to the national background check system, providing names of felons, fugitives and others prohibited from possessing firearms.

A Martinez spokesman says the governor wants to put in law which agencies are responsible for providing the mental health records to the background check system, preventing any disruption to reporting that could result from changes in administration or at the AOC.

But best I can tell, Martinez really hasn’t proposed anything new to try to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Newtown shootings. That’s not a surprise, given her record.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at tcole@abqjournal.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to www.ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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