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Protesters push gun-control and anti-abortion measures

Santa Fe Police Chief Raymond Rael
Santa Fe Police Chief Ray Rael speaks to a gun-control rally outside the Roundhouse on Wednesday. The protesters backed legislation that would require background checks for private sales at gun shows. (Eddie Moore/Journal)
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SANTA FE – Rallies for a hot-button gun control measure and against abortion drew crowds to the Roundhouse on Wednesday, though there were no guarantees either issue will be acted upon by lawmakers during their 30-day session, which started Tuesday.

A spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said the Republican governor has not made a decision as to whether to add gun control or abortion-related legislation to the session’s agenda.

The governor said this week that she wants the session’s focus to be on the economy and education.

“As such, she is meeting with legislative leaders – on both sides and from both parties – to discuss various other issues, including these, to get feedback,” Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said Wednesday.

About 100 people attended a rally outside the Roundhouse in support of a bill, sponsored by Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, D-Albuquerque, that would require background checks for private sales at gun shows. About 4,000 signatures in favor of the legislation, House Bill 44, were later delivered to the Governor’s Office.

A similar bill passed the House of Representatives during the 2013 legislative session but died on the Senate floor on the session’s last day. It was backed by Martinez and at least some Republican lawmakers, though many others opposed it.

Santa Fe Police Chief Ray Rael told those in the crowd the measure is not aimed at taking guns away from people.

“There are those who claim this is a gun-control bill,” Rael said. “I don’t think that’s the case. I think this is a people-control bill.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said he plans to propose a House rule this week that would prohibit members of the public from openly carrying firearms in certain parts of the Capitol. No such prohibition currently exists.

As for the anti-abortion rally, Archbishop Michael Sheehan and New Mexico’s Roman Catholic bishops led a march from Santa Fe’s Cathedral Basilica to the Roundhouse.

While hundreds of supporters looked on, they later urged lawmakers to support anti-abortion legislation during the 30-day session. No such measures had yet been filed as of Wednesday, but lawmakers have until Feb. 5 to introduce legislation.

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