SANTA FE — New Mexico would prohibit the carrying of a firearm within 100 feet of a polling place under legislation that won Senate approval Wednesday after intense debate over whether to create exceptions to the ban.
The proposal, Senate Bill 44, would apply during elections, with just one exception, for law enforcement and security personnel.
Passage came over the objection of Republican lawmakers who pushed — unsuccessfully — to amend the bill to extend the exception to individuals with a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said schools that operate as polling places already prohibit firearms — concealed or not — and extending the ban to other sites would promote safety.
“Given where we are in our political discourse,” Wirth said, “I would say that elections and firearms really don’t mix. This bill simply creates a level playing field for our polling places.”
The bill won approval 28-9 with two Republicans — Crystal Diamond of Elephant Butte and Steven Neville of Aztec — joining Democrats in favor.
A Republican-sponsored amendment to create an exception at polling places for individuals with a permit to carry a concealed firearm failed on a 13-23 vote.
Supporters of the amendment said it would provide a deterrent effect — making a potential mass shooter wonder whether someone will shoot back — and allow the bill to pick up broad bipartisan support.
“This will keep our polling places safe,” said Sen. Cliff Pirtle, a Roswell Republican who offered the amendment.
Democrats who opposed amendment said the legislation already allows law enforcement and security personnel to carry weapons, providing sufficient protection for voters if needed.
The measure is among a host of gun bills advancing at the Roundhouse this session. The ideas include raising the age to purchase some firearms, imposing a 14-day waiting period for firearm purchases and banning the possession or sale of certain firearms, such as AR-15-style rifles.
Besides the polling place restriction, the only other gun proposal to pass a chamber of the Legislature so far this year is a proposal, House Bill 9, to make it a crime to store a firearm in a way that negligently disregards the ability of a minor to access it.