We’re less than a week away from the 30-day legislative session coming to a close in New Mexico, and despite an onslaught of gun control bills backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and supported by most Democrat lawmakers, so far no anti-gun measures have been sent to her desk.
That’s almost certain to change in the next couple of days, with a 7-day waiting period bill poised for final passage in the state Senate, but it’s beginning to look like time might run out before the bulk of her anti-gun agenda is approved by lawmakers in both chambers.
“We’re getting late in the session; we only have a week to go,” Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, said in an interview Thursday. Chandler has her name on two gun bills — one to make it easier to take guns away from people who might threaten themselves or others, one to go after gun sellers whose weapons end up in the wrong hands — that have stalled and may not get restarted, she said. Both are in a holding pattern just outside the landing field known as the House floor.
It could be difficult to get either bill through the House and then over to the Senate for vetting and support, she said, for one reason: “They are going to be racing against the clock.”
That clock is ticking away, and those bills are among more than 750 pieces of legislation introduced in this year’s session. They are fighting for attention against a raft of bills that have nothing to do with crime or guns, including approving a budget for the coming fiscal year.
In short, it’s priority time, and a lot of things are going to be left stuck behind in the mud.
What you will see now, said Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, is a focus on the budget and capital outlay bills, meaning “some of the other issues will fall by the wayside, and they won’t have a chance to make it.”
Still, he said he expects long Senate floor sessions Friday and Saturday in an effort to move some bills forward, including gun-related legislation.
“Gun safety and gun issues will take up quite a bit of time,” he said in an interview.
Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, also expressed optimism some crime bills can make it.
“I think we’ll be on the floor a lot, I think we can still do it,” she said.
On the other hand she, like most Republicans and some conservative Democrats, is less enamored of supporting any new gun laws that, as they see it, violate the right to bear arms.
“I don’t want any of the gun bills [to get through],” she said in an interview.
The Democrat-controlled House and Senate haven’t rejected any of Grisham’s gun control bills, though they did water down the waiting period from 14 business days to 7. Even if the legislature only sends a couple of 2A-infringing bills to the governor she can always call a special session and bring lawmakers back to Santa Fe to finish the job. And even with many of her anti-gun priorities stuck in a holding pattern, there’s no guarantee they’ll continue to be bottled up until the session is gaveled to a close.
Albuquerque pollster and political analyst Brian Sanderoff said at this point in the legislative game, if it becomes clear a bill does not have the support of the majority of the Legislature or the strong support of a committee chair, it will likely “die just because time is running out.”
Sanderoff said it is premature to assume any bill cannot be driven to the finish line in the last week of the session. He said if Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and Democratic lawmakers in both parties want a bill to succeed, “there is still time to get it through the legislative process.”
It’s far too early for gun owners to celebrate. Honestly, even after sine die Second Amendment supporters need to be wary, because a special session may very well be on the table. Grisham threatened to bring legislators back to Santa Fe to work on multiple gun control bills last year, but eventually backed down when it became clear that her agenda didn’t have the support to pass. I’m not sure the same political calculus exists this year, given that many of her suggested gun control measures have cleared legislative committees along party lines and without any objections from her fellow Democrats.
We’ll be talking more about what might happen in the waning days of this year’s session on Monday’s Bearing Arms Cam & Co, but right now the most important takeaway is that gun owners need to keep up the pressure on lawmakers to say “no” to Grisham’s gun control package and any other infringements on our right to keep and bear arms… or to at least keep those bills sidelined until the session draws to a close. We can deal with a special session if and when the governor calls for one, but for now the goal should be to get to sine die with the Second Amendment still intact.