From the Roundhouse: A Gun Control Conundrum

January 22nd, 2014 at 7:17 pm by under Latest Posts, Politics

Those same rules that give Governor Susana Martinez sizable control over the legislative agenda this year could be putting her in a tricky situation politically when it comes to gun control.

To understand the background of why it’s so tricky, you have to look at last session. As I reported on today, Governor Martinez backed HB 77 last session. HB 77 was  a compromise bill that required a background check to buy a gun at a gun show and strengthened mental health reporting requirements to the federal system used for background checks.

House Minority Whip Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, worked with Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, to get the bill through the House on a 43-26 vote. Some Republicans backed the effort. The Senate was less kind, holding it up in committee until the last second and then amending it slightly before it died on the Senate floor.

Governor Martinez’s endorsement that year rankled the NRA and other gun groups, but Martinez advisers pointed to strong polling on the issue. A Pew poll released in May backs that sentiment up, showing 81 percent support nationally for the gun show background check idea.

This year HB 77 is HB 44.

But a year makes a difference. It’s one thing to say you’ll sign something if it hits your desk, it’s a whole other thing to actively ask lawmakers to champion the cause. In fact the legislature can’t take up the issue without the Governor acting.

Looking at it on a political level, there are pros and cons to putting the issue on the call. Many Republicans could turn against Martinez if she goes out of her way to back gun control. On the other hand, independent voters and others could give her credit for showing bipartisanship if she takes up a proposal that received support from some Republicans and most Democrats.

There’s also a middle path. Having only 30 days for the session and a lot on the plate provides a ready (and fair) excuse that there isn’t enough time to address the issue this year.

It’s unclear what road the Governor will take, but a statement from spokesperson Enrique Knell gives a hint that the middle road might be what’s selected:

“No decision has been made on that issue.  As the Governor expressed yesterday, she wants to place a strong focus on creating a diverse economy and reforming education. “

It may be a while before we know for sure.


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Speaking of guns, this proposed rule change for the Senate was introduced on Wednesday by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. It bans guns from Senate chambers, hallways and committee rooms with exceptions for law enforcement.

I put in a call late Wednesday to see what’s behind the push and if there have been any incidents that would have Wirth introduce the idea. I’ll try and update this post if he gets back to me.

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