The debate over gun safety got heated during the recently concluded legislative session in Santa Fe, and it’s likely to carry over to campaigns for New Mexico’s congressional seats in 2020.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M. – who is seeking fellow Democrat Tom Udall’s Senate seat – called the passing of gun reform legislation in the U.S. House a significant achievement even though the bills won’t likely make it out of the Senate.
“It’s the first time a house of Congress addressed gun violence in 25 years,” Luján said, noting that something needed to be done to try to prevent mass shootings that have occurred “at concerts, in schools and churches.”
The New Mexico Shooting Sports Association was critical of U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small’s support for one of the bills and urged people to attend Torres Small’s town hall meeting last Saturday. It cited the opposition of sheriffs in the 2nd Congressional District.
Backed by the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, 25 of the state’s 33 counties approved so-called Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
Despite the opposition, Luján, Torres Small and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland voted for a background checks law that would close loopholes in gun show sales. Luján and Haaland also supported extending the waiting period from three to 10 days for would-be gun buyers at gun shows who don’t quickly pass a federal background check.
Torres Small voted against the bill.
Luján said he was aware of the Second Amendment sanctuary movement and opposition to gun safety legislation on both the state and national levels. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an extensive background checks bill into law last month, and last week she signed a bill prohibiting gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act.
Luján and Haaland both said the legislation they voted for in the House and those that passed the state Legislature didn’t violate the Second Amendment.
Luján said during an interview with the Journal that gun reform legislation “has significant support” in his meetings with constituents in the 3rd Congressional District.
“This legislation wasn’t about taking guns away from law-abiding citizens,” Luján said. “It was not about overturning the Second Amendment.”
“I got hundreds and hundreds of postcards before that vote,” Haaland said. “They said please vote for this legislation. Folks in this (1st Congressional) district want common-sense gun legislation.”
Haaland said it was unfortunate that supporters of the Second Amendment sanctuary county movement “didn’t see the larger picture.”
“If those counties were to sit down with the students that I sat down with, they might want to be more understanding and work to make those students more safe when they go to school every day,” Haaland said. “Right now, there are students advocating for gun legislation. These are kids who should be playing soccer, or in the school orchestra or doing something else with their extracurricular activity. Instead, they’re having to lobby adults.”
Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said he could see the gun control debate being a “tense” issue in both the U.S. Senate and House races next year.
“During my visit in the 3rd Congressional District when I was running for governor, I met several Democrats who were guns rights advocates,” Pearce said.
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