GOP criticizes gun control measures signed into law by Lujan Grisham, accuses her of wanting to disarm everyone

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham faced criticism from Republicans in southeast New Mexico when she signed several bills during the start of the 2024 Legislative Session, which imposed stricter regulations on firearms.

House Bill 129 was introduced in New Mexico to establish a mandatory waiting period of seven days for individuals interested in purchasing firearms. Additionally, Senate Bill 5 aimed to prohibit the presence of firearms at polling places across the state. However, amendments were made to both bills during the session to allow exemptions for individuals with concealed carry permits and law enforcement personnel.

Lawmakers in the deep-red southeast region of the state remained firm in their stance against the bills, asserting that they violated Constitutional rights and failed to effectively combat crime. The lack of support from these lawmakers raised concerns among Republicans, who feared that their constituents’ rights could be jeopardized if Governor Lujan Grisham called a special session to pursue additional gun and public safety measures.

Sen. David Gallegos (R-41) of Eunice warned that litigation should be anticipated.

According to Gallegos, the GOP is actively pursuing a case against the governor’s attempt to “disarm everyone” at either the federal or state level. He expressed concern that Lujan Grisham and the Democratic party, who hold control over New Mexico’s judiciary branch, may obstruct a lawsuit if it is brought at the federal level.

“They’re unconstitutional,” Gallegos expressed his dissent towards the firearm bills. He firmly believes that it is crucial for New Mexico to make a positive change. Gallegos emphasized the need for moderates to align their votes with their cause, as the continuous erosion of people’s rights is a concerning trend.

According to him, the Democrats’ decision to reduce the waiting period for gun purchases in New Mexico to seven days, with certain exemptions, could be just the first step in their larger agenda to eliminate guns entirely in the state.

According to Gallegos, these small attempts to pass anti-gun legislation have faced significant challenges in the past. However, he believes that this particular bill could be a game-changer. Gallegos fears that if this bill is successful, it could potentially lead to a wave of similar legislation being introduced.

According to Gallegos, if HB 129 is implemented, it could particularly affect rural gun buyers who often have to travel long distances, sometimes up to 300 miles, to purchase firearms. In such cases, these buyers would be required to make the same trip again just a week later.

He emphasized the importance of faster access in specific regions of the state.

Democrats look to address rising gun violence throughout state

On March 4, Lujan Grisham took decisive action by signing multiple public safety bills into law. These measures were implemented as a direct response to the alarming increase in shootings that have plagued the Albuquerque area. The Governor firmly believed that immediate state intervention was necessary to address this issue effectively.

On September 8, 2023, Lujan Grisham issued an executive order to prohibit open and concealed carry in certain areas of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. However, this decision faced immediate opposition, resulting in lawsuits and ultimately being overturned by a U.S. district court. As a result, the issue gained significant attention during this year’s legislative session, prompting the governor and her supporters to focus on legislation targeting firearms and the related issue of violent crime.

HB 129 and SB 5 were accompanied by Senate Bill 96, which raised the minimum sentence for second-degree murder, the most prevalent murder charge in the state, from 15 to 18 years of imprisonment. Additionally, Senate Bill 217 mandated that judges detain certain suspects of violent crimes if they are accused of committing a felony while on bond.

Lujan Grisham, while signing the four bills, expressed her belief that these legislations would effectively tackle the issue of violent crime and repeat offenders in the state.

In a statement, she expressed her concern over the alarming loss of lives caused by firearms falling into the wrong hands and the recurring offenses committed by violent criminals. She emphasized that this legislation aims to tackle both issues.

According to Rep. Andrea Romero (D-46) of Santa Fe, the inclusion of a wait time in HB 129 serves as a “cooling off period” to discourage impulsive gun purchases and the potential for subsequent violence.

“We are implementing a practical measure to protect lives and enhance the safety of communities throughout New Mexico,” stated the bill’s lead sponsor. “By introducing a 7-day cooling-off period, we aim to prevent impulsive acts of violence and self-harm, while also allowing law enforcement sufficient time to conduct thorough background checks for the safety of all New Mexicans.”

According to Albuquerque Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-15), the sponsor of SB 217, the bill is necessary to prevent repeat offenses by perpetrators during ongoing criminal proceedings.

GOP argues gun bills fail to address crime in New Mexico

New Mexico Representative Cathrynn Brown (R-55) from Carlsbad believes that the state’s attention should have been directed towards passing legislation that would enhance penalties for crimes such as drug dealing, specifically targeting the trafficking of fentanyl. This is crucial considering the alarming increase in the usage of this drug and the resulting number of fatalities across New Mexico.

During the session, Republicans criticized their Democrat counterparts for their lack of support for various fentanyl and drug trafficking bills. They argued that implementing stricter penalties is essential to deter drug-related crimes and save lives.

“These firearm legislation bills are turning law-abiding citizens into criminals,” expressed Brown, emphasizing the detrimental impact of such laws. “Our focus should be on preventing criminals from committing crimes, rather than targeting law-abiding individuals.”

Brown expressed concern about the waiting periods for firearm sales, highlighting the potential risks they pose to survivors of domestic violence. He also argued that these waiting periods would have little impact in preventing suicides, which was one of the main reasons cited by Democrats.

“These women are living in fear for their lives, and they are being asked to wait for seven days. This policy is deeply troubling,” Brown expressed. “Our constitution clearly guarantees the right to bear arms. The governor should be aware of this. It is clearly unconstitutional.”

Democrats presented the gun bills as measures to address crime in New Mexico. However, Brown accused Democrats of neglecting meaningful solutions by disregarding proposals pertaining to drug trafficking.

The GOP accused Democrats of denying several Republican-led bills that aimed to address drug use and dealing. Instead, Democrats chose to pass a memorial designating Oct. 14 to 18 as “Fentanyl Awareness Week.”

House Bill 106, which aimed to classify child exposure to fentanyl as a child abuse crime in New Mexico state statutes, was left on the table. Similarly, Senate Bill 102, which sought to add penalties and broaden the state’s definition of racketeering to target criminal enterprises such as drug dealing operations, faced delays in committees of their respective chambers of origin.

SB 83, which aimed to enhance the responsibilities of the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) in conducting family assessments and investigations when plans of care are violated, unfortunately did not receive a hearing. This bill would have mandated families to undergo CYFD procedures in specific cases.

According to Brown, referring to the seven-day waiting period as a crimefighter is simply not accurate. He expresses his disappointment in the lack of action taken to combat fentanyl, stating that it is crucial to put an end to it. Brown believes that there could have been potential solutions if both the governor and the majority party had been willing to collaborate on the issue.

“They seemed to be unaware of it,” she lamented.

According to Rep. Jim Townsend (R-54) of Artesia, the Republican Party is actively focusing on drug trafficking. He emphasized that the GOP will strive to collaborate with both sides of the aisle and engage with law enforcement agencies before the 2025 Legislative Session to address the pressing needs of the state.

“Criminal activity in New Mexico has reached alarming levels, particularly in our prominent city of Albuquerque,” remarked Townsend. “To effectively address this issue, it is crucial that we heed the advice of law enforcement officials. We must engage with sheriffs and police departments to understand their requirements. I have serious doubts that the proposed firearm bills will have any significant impact. It appears to have been a futile endeavor.”

Gallegos argued that time could be running out, emphasizing the influx of criminals from neighboring countries like Mexico into New Mexico. He expressed skepticism that these individuals would comply with any new laws imposed by Lujan Grisham and her supporters.

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