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Editorial: Prep, not session politicking, needed to fight domestic terror

Our country’s horrifying and still unfolding legacy of mass shootings inspires the kind of pain and horror that makes us all want to do something.

That’s why New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf’s impulse to call for the governor to order a special session so all state lawmakers can get in on a state-level discussion about domestic terrorism is so understandable.

But not every call to action is created equal, and it would be more responsible for legislators to sit this one out. Understandable does not equal productive.

A recap: In the wake of the hate-fueled massacres that left dozens dead and wounded in El Paso and Dayton, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced New Mexico would a host a summit on domestic terrorism. Considering our status as a minority-majority state and the El Paso shooter’s claim he was targeting “Mexicans,” we are the right place at the right time for such a discussion.

The summit is supposed to bring together top state law enforcement officials and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle to discuss action going forward. Attendees will also receive a private briefing from FBI officials and could have a hand in shaping new state policies and getting the ball rolling on more gun-related legislation.

It’s a good step to take, and an abundance of input from law enforcement officials and federal agents – the people who do the actual responding to and investigating of these atrocities – should help keep the summit well-rooted in practicality. This should be a serious meeting of serious people able to set politics aside to craft meaningful, effective policy.

Then came Egolf’s call to reconvene the whole kit and caboodle of lawmakers from around the state to participate in a special session, an endeavor, by the way, that could cost taxpayers upward of $50,000 per day, according to a story in Wednesday’s Journal. Egolf noted that 48% of New Mexico’s population is Hispanic and fears of becoming a target based on ethnicity are running high.

We take his point, and it’s true: racism and political division are rampant; it’s undisputedly frightening.

But it’s hard to see exactly what value that special session would add beyond ensuring that everybody in the Roundhouse gets a ribbon for trying. To put a finer point on it, it’s hard to imagine that a special session would be more than a three-ringed political circus, complete with carnival barkers and chest thumping to gin up panic.

And it appears the Governor’s Office agrees. On Thursday, Lujan Grisham’s office issued a press release of comments from Dominic Gabello, senior adviser for policy and strategy. While Gabello commended Egolf and other lawmakers for recent gun legislation, he noted the summit is an avenue for “high-level fact-finding and policy development.”

“To call for a special session, to lean into the well-founded fears of violence in this state and elsewhere, without a focused plan, without caucus outreach, is the wrong kind of reactive,” Gabello was quoted as saying. “We must be quick without hurrying.”

He’s right.

Gabello’s boss is a Democrat’s Democrat, and in her first year in office has already signed into law a number of important – and reasonable – gun-control reforms, which should reassure Egolf and his party brethren they have an ally. But the moderates and conservatives across New Mexico should also take comfort in the evidence this Democrat is willing to “be quick without hurrying,” to seek input from law enforcement and experts and to keep politicking at an arm’s length on this issue.

Yet Egolf and his fellow lawmakers should not sit quietly by until the 2020 regular session. In addition to weighing in during the summit, there’s plenty to be done in the interim four-plus months – including gathering input, data and best practices, whether home in their districts or in their inter-session working groups.

Fighting domestic terrorism is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and New Mexico needs preparation, not political posturing, in its arsenal.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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