Price for new Roundhouse firearms policy unclear - Albuquerque Journal

Price for new Roundhouse firearms policy unclear

Jesus Saiz of Las Vegas, N.M., carries a semiautomatic rifle as he takes part in a gun rights rally outside the Roundhouse in January 2020. Top-ranking New Mexico lawmakers recently adopted a policy that will ban firearms from the state Capitol complex. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The disarmament of the New Mexico state Capitol won’t happen overnight.

But top legislative staffers are already working quickly to implement a new policy approved this week that will, starting next month, ban firearms from the Roundhouse for everyone except law enforcement officers and military members.

Legislative Council Service Director Raúl Burciaga said money to pay for the policy’s implementation will likely come out of both an appropriations bill passed during this year’s 60-day legislative session and similar bills passed in upcoming sessions – a special session on redistricting set to begin Dec. 6 and a 30-day session that will start in January.

He also said the policy will likely require hiring additional staffers and outside security personnel, but added he did not have an estimate for the total cost of implementation.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, who proposed the policy change, said during an interview the timing was intentional and aimed at ensuring firearms are not allowed in the Roundhouse for the two upcoming sessions.

This year’s 60-day session was conducted while the state Capitol was off-limits to lobbyists and members of the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Security fencing was also erected outside the building due to threats made after the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington.

“It just felt like the time was right,” Wirth told the Journal.

He also said he’s hopeful the policy does not alter the character of the Roundhouse, which frequently welcomes tourists and school groups, but acknowledged it marks a significant change.

“In some senses, it’s sad we have to be in this place,” Wirth said. “But it’s one of the realities of the times we live in.”

The move to ban guns and other deadly weapons – including switchblades, bowie knives and brass knuckles – from the Roundhouse was approved by a group of top-ranking lawmakers despite opposition from minority Republicans.

Several GOP lawmakers said the gun-free Roundhouse policy would prevent female legislators with concealed carry permits from defending themselves.

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce described the change as a violation of New Mexicans’ constitutional rights, even though courthouses and other government buildings already bar the carrying of firearms.

“People have a right to protect themselves, and progressives in Santa Fe are again ignoring the rights and freedoms of citizens,” Pearce said.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the Democrat declined to comment on the policy, saying, “It’s the Legislature’s building to run and we’ll defer to their prerogative.”

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