The tragic shooting in Connecticut has set me thinking about our own state’s gun laws, and what the legislature has done to expand gun ownership-- even though New Mexico ranks 6th in gun deaths, and even higher in youth suicide. Thanks to Santa Fe’s total abdication to everything NRA—you can openly carry any kind of loaded gun here as long as you’re not a felon, and over 19 years old.
No state license or training required. And you can take it almost everywhere, including school grounds, banks-- even the legislature. And if you’re one of 24,000 licensed to carry a concealed weapon you can carry it into movie theatres, restaurants with bars, churches, and liquor stores.
Maybe that’s not surprising for a state where one rural county requires every head of household to be armed. This is, after all, the Wild West. But really, how much carnage do we have to accept in the name of gun owners’ rights? More people are now familiar with the 2nd amendment than the first, and the NRA had been wildly successful at exploiting this wedge issue. Since 2003 they have poured over $3 million into legislative races nationwide, and they’ve have put a lot of notches on their belt as a result. In 2003 our legislature passed a concealed weapons law. Since then, we’ve reduced the training required, lowered the qualifying age and expanded the places where guns can be carried. Now, our Governor tweets about her marksmanship, and law enforcement, formerly for gun control, is silent.
In the wake of Columbine, the legislature passed a trigger-lock bill, requiring parents –like the mother of Adam Lanza-- to lock up their guns. But it was vetoed. For the next decade we went in the opposite direction. Bill Richardson made the political calculus when he ran for president, benefiting to the tune of $15,000. Both the Democrats and the Republicans lost their huevos on this one—and just to keep it that way, this year’s NRA’s questionnaire here made the requirements clear. And no state candidate opposing restrictions on semi-automatic fire arms or limits on the capacity of magazines need apply.
Rep. Miguel Garcia will buck the tide this January with a bill to require background checks at gun shows. He deserves our support.
After Newtown…we just can’t continue taking a bullet for the NRA.
Dede Feldman is a veteran of the New Mexico Senate, where she represented the North Valley of Albuquerque for 16 years before retiring this year.
BELOW: NRA four-page questionnaire for would-be political candidates in New Mexico