SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said her “must have” legislative priorities include a waiting period for firearm purchases and raising the minimum age to buy certain guns to 21 as New Mexico lawmakers develop a package of gun restrictions.
But she acknowledged a proposed ban on “assault weapons” — such as AR-15-style rifles — is less likely to reach her desk.
The governor’s remarks came Tuesday as legislators enter the final 2 1/2 weeks of a legislative session that will determine the fate of a series of gun bills. Their consideration has drawn a flood of supporters and opponents to the Capitol to testify in packed committee hearings and participate in rallies.
The proposals include a safe-storage bill and ban on firearms at polling places, both of which are advancing at a steady pace. But a proposed ban on the possession of assault weapons remains stuck in committee.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, told high school students who rallied at the Capitol in favor of gun legislation Tuesday that she isn’t deterred by the skepticism.
“When it’s hard, it means that you’re on to the precipice of change,” she said.
She added: “We’re going to get many of these proposals over the finish line.”
In an interview after the rally, Lujan Grisham said she is meeting with legislative leaders as she seeks support for firearms and public safety legislation.
Among the priorities, she said, are a proposal to establish a 14-day waiting period for gun sales and legislation raising the minimum age to 21 for purchasing or possessing an automatic or semiautomatic firearm.
“I’m having conversations with leadership about ‘must have’ bills upstairs,” the governor said. Those are “certainly on the list.”
She said would keep fighting for an assault weapon ban but that the bill has run into complex questions over how to define what would be banned.
The waiting period legislation, House Bill 100, has been on the House’s floor agenda for a week but has not been brought up for a vote, perhaps signaling concerns about a narrow vote margin.
Lujan Grisham suggested some of her priorities will make it into omnibus bills on education, public safety and taxes.
Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature, but proposals backed by the governor to overhaul New Mexico’s pretrial detention system have stalled repeatedly.
On crime, Lujan Grisham said she wants more than just increased funding for law enforcement to reach her desk this year.
“We promised New Mexicans a solid public safety package,” she said.
The governor and legislative leaders also have pursued contrasting tax priorities. She has pushed more vigorously for changes to the gross receipts tax system while some Democratic lawmakers have focused on reshaping income tax brackets.
Omnibus bills — a legislative maneuver in which multiple bills or ideas are rolled into a single bill — on taxes, crime and education haven’t emerged yet.
The gun legislation, nevertheless, has surfaced as a point of intense conflict this session, with mixed results for supporters and opponents.
The judiciary committee in each legislative chamber has been a key test for the bills.
On the Senate side, lawmakers of both parties questioned the legality of a proposal, Senate Bill 171, that sought to ban the sale of hollow point ammunition, machine guns and certain other kinds of firearms. It was rejected this week on a bipartisan vote.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a Las Cruces Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said repeatedly that he isn’t interested in passing bills that will be struck down in court.
In the House, legislation to ban the sale or possession of “assault weapons” — defined as semiautomatic rifles and handguns with certain characteristics — has been held in the Judiciary Committee as lawmakers evaluate amendments. The proposal is House Bill 101.
Some bill, however, are advancing quickly, even amid intense opposition by Republican lawmakers and some Democrats.
A proposal that would make it a crime to negligently store a firearm that a minor obtains has passed the full House and one Senate committee, for example, putting it just a few steps away from final passage.
Under the legislation, House Bill 9, charges could be brought only if a minor brandished the firearm or used it to injure or kill someone.
Republicans, heavily outnumbered in each chamber, say the gun bills will do nothing to deter crime while penalizing people who want a weapon for self defense, hunting or other reasons.
“This is just another example of criminalizing law-abiding citizens,” Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, said of the safe storage bill.
Any proposal that doesn’t pass both chambers by noon March 18 is dead.
The governor has some leverage, too. She has veto power, including line-item veto power on budget bills, and she can call a special session and set the agenda — a strategy employed to enact marijuana legalization.
“This is where I start to bring everybody up and tell them what’s important for me to have,” the governor said in an interview, “because if we don’t have those, you know, then we might have to stay longer or do it again.”
At a glance: Status of gun bills
House Bill 9: Unlawful access to firearm by minor. Passed the House 37-32. Advanced through one of two committees in the Senate.
Senate Bill 44: Ban firearms at polling places. Passed the Senate 28-9. Advanced through one of two committees in the House.
House Bill 100: Waiting period for gun purchases. Progressed through House two committees. Awaiting action by full chamber.
House Bill 101: Assault weapon ban. Progressed through one House committee. Amendments being considered in a second committee.
Senate Bill 116: Raise minimum age to 21 to buy or possess certain guns. Passed one Senate committee. Awaiting action in another.
Senate Bill 171: Ban sale of automatic firearms. Rejected by Senate committee.
House Bill 306: Illegal straw purchases. Awaiting first House committee hearing.