Guns can be intimidating. That’s why crooks often brandish them while robbing stores.
In past years, when firearms were the subject of political debate in the state Capitol, many in the audience wore guns on their hips to make a point regarding Second Amendment rights. Again, guns can be intimidating.
And while U.S. and District of Columbia criminal codes prohibit congressional staff members and the public from packing heat in the U.S. Capitol Complex, the rules in Santa Fe are more nuanced. After decades of gun-toting in the Roundhouse, a panel of top-ranking lawmakers enacted a ban on firearms and deadly weapons inside the Capitol complex in November, with exemptions for law enforcement and uniformed military members. In addition, the House speaker or Senate president pro tem may grant case-by-case exemptions. House Republican legislators have one allowing them to carry firearms inside the Roundhouse.
Now, top House Republicans Jim Townsend, Rod Montoya and Rebecca Dow have unilaterally decided the rules don’t apply to their staff members with concealed-carry licenses if they feel their safety is threatened. They cited threats of violence by abortion rights supporters in other states and say staff here have a right to protect themselves.
House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, correctly says they should contact State Police to report specific threats, security staff will continue enforcing the ban and Republicans can challenge the Legislature’s rule in court.
Schools, courthouses and other government buildings, bars and military installations in New Mexico already ban firearms with limited exceptions, such as for law enforcement. Yet, for years New Mexico was one of just a few states that allowed guns, concealed or otherwise, to be brought into its state capital building by anyone.
Swinging the pendulum closer to a gun-free Roundhouse was overdue. House GOP staffers must follow the rules like everyone else. Let’s leave security to security professionals.
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.