SANTA FE — Paul Schmitt recounts a news story about an elderly woman wrestling a gun magazine away from alleged gunman Jared Loughner during his 2011 shooting rampage in Tucson that critically injured 13 people, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and killed six others.
“Imagine how many more people he could have killed if he didn’t need to reload?” Schmitt said.
That’s one reason Schmitt, founder of New Mexicans for Gun Safety, said he supports a proposed Santa Fe ordinance that would ban the possession, sale or transfer of any gun magazine that accepts – or can be converted to accept – more than 10 rounds.
A vote and public hearing on the proposal is set for tonight, at a City Council session scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall.
“This is something aimed at deterring mass shootings that have been happening more and more,” Schmitt said. He’s gathered 400-500 signatures on petitions supporting the proposed ordinance.
Meanwhile, at Tina’s Range Gear – a gun store and shooting range on Airport Road – on Tuesday afternoon, patrons were skeptical about the magazine limit ordinance and why it’s been proposed.
“This won’t solve anything,” said a volunteer firefighter from Madrid, who wished to remain anonymous. “I don’t see how turning law-abiding citizens into criminals overnight will solve the problem of mass shootings. … Criminals don’t care about the capacity of their magazine clips.”
Another patron, Joseph Scordia of Santa Fe, stated simply: “This isn’t about preventing mass shootings, this is about getting rid of guns.”
As for sales of high-capacity magazines, an employee at Tina’s Range Gear, who also wished to remain anonymous, said it has been business as usual despite the possible ban, which likely will face a legal challenge if it’s passed.
“The people who have them already have them,” the employee said. “And the people who don’t have them haven’t been running out and buying them, so sales haven’t escalated.”
Santa Fe Mayor David Coss is sponsoring the ordinance, along with Councilors Patti Bushee and Ron Trujillo.
Bushee and other gun control advocates also point to recent gun massacres during which shooters were able to spray a large number of bullets in a short period of time without having to stop and reload.
“I understand that I’m limited in what I can do at the municipal level. However, doing nothing in the face of increasing gun violence is not an option for me,” Bushee told the Journal . “I took an oath of office to protect the safety and welfare of the citizens of Santa Fe.”
Coss said there isn’t a need for high-capacity magazines on automatic or semi-automatic weapons – he doesn’t accept that people need them for self-defense or hunting purposes.
“I think trying to strike a balance and provide a little more safety, it’s something I’ve endorsed,” Coss said.
A small step
The ordinance is a small step, Bushee said, noting that she hopes greater gun control legislation will soon be enacted at the state and federal levels.
A huge crowd is expected for tonight’s council vote on the measure. Opponents are also circulating a petition on the ordinance.
Schmitt said nothing in state law would prevent gun owners from bringing their weapons to City Hall – as gun rights advocates did at the state Capitol during gun law debates earlier this year.
The Republican Party of New Mexico is opposing the ordinance and encouraging gun-rights supporters to show up and be heard.
Party Chair John Billingsley said in a statement last week that the proposal will criminalize law-abiding residents and does nothing to fight crime or bring attention to mental health issues. He also said that guns with high-capacity magazines are often used for recreation, competition and self-defense.
Many legal experts believe the New Mexico constitution prohibits cities from regulating guns and ammunition, and Santa Fe officials have acknowledged that a legal challenge is likely if the ordinance is approved by the City Council. However, the Santa Fe City Attorney’s Office says limiting high-capacity magazines to 10 rounds doesn’t contradict the state constitution. City Attorney Geno Zamora has said the proposed ordinance still allows residents to bear arms and use ammunition – there just isn’t an “inherent right” to connect more than 10 bullets to a weapon.