January 23, 2014
By Steve Klinger
A defining moment brought rueful chuckles to the crowd of about 100 people rallying for gun safety outside the Roundhouse yesterday. When Miranda Viscoli, coordinator of New Mexico for Gun Safety, waved a stack of petitions with nearly 4,000 signatures urging Gov. Susana Martinez to put HB44 on the legislative agenda, she exhorted the protesters to bring their signs and join her at the governor’s fourth-floor office. After whispered exchanges she had to correct herself, however. Guns, rifles, even assault weapons can be carried openly into New Mexico’s Capitol building. But political signs are banned.
The irony was not lost on those gathered to support a bill calling for criminal background checks by private sellers on prospective gun-buyers at gun shows and codification of the NCIS reporting process in New Mexico. After last year’s similar HB77 stalled in the Senate as the 60-day session expired, this year’s bill from Rep. Miguel Garcia won’t even be introduced unless the governor puts it on her call list, as legislation in the short 30-day session is restricted to tax and budget bills or those the governor wants to advance (yes, you guessed it—third-grade retention, banning driver’s licenses for immigrants). Republican Rep. Nate Gentry (R-Albuq.) who co-sponsored last year’s bill and caught a lot of heat from party colleagues, has said he will “sit this one out.”
A parade of speakers in support of the bill included Garcia, Rep. Brian Egolf, Rep. Carl Trujillo, Santa Fe City Councilor Chris Calvert, Santa Fe School Board President Linda Trujillo and Santa Fe Police Chief, Raymond Rael. In a clearly defensive posture, most of the speakers were passionate but apologetic, hastening to proclaim that this is a gun safety bill, not a gun control bill. Rael explained, “It’s more of a people control bill” that simply shows common sense. Egolf stressed that such bills are effective and “numbers don’t lie.” He said the legislation would “restrict the flow of illegal guns to criminals.”
Harry Eberts, pastor at First Presbyterian Church Santa Fe, noted that in the past year 11,000 Americans have died from gun violence. Twelve-year-old Ulysses Yarbrough, who said he is a gun owner and goes duck hunting with his dad, urged New Mexicans to support “safe and responsible” gun ownership.
And yet all the discussion in state and national media continues to reflect passive obsession with details of the latest school shootings, including the one at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell. As always, in a spirit of resigned emoting, it’s about the heroes who saved lives, the 9-1-1 calls, the invariable school lockdown, the prayer vigils and the invocation of community spirit. About how America finds the strength to weather these seemingly inevitable tragedies through faith in God, family and outpourings of support, all with interchangeable TV news coverage ad nauseum. Nothing about easy access to guns and their misuse, weaponmaker profits or a culture of violence.
Of course, Roswell was the governor’s first topic of discussion in her State of the State address on Tuesday. But not a word did she utter about taking legal steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, children, the mentally unstable, or the pistol-packin’ cowboys who helped put her into power. Her spokesman Ernest Knell told the Associated Press she has not yet decided whether to put HB44 on her legislative agenda.
Even if she is tempted, the advice for a Republican with national political aspirations would almost certainly be to “sit this one out.” Because even a whisper in the direction of gun safety would be un-American, a step down a slippery slope, and anti-2nd Amendment—that distorted interpretation of a 225-year-old reference to “a well-regulated militia” that has all but installed “In Guns We Trust” as the sanctified slogan of NRA-backed gun-industry profiteering.
Steve Klinger is editor and publisher of Grassroots Press. His original song, Twenty Children, about the Newtown school massacre of 2012, can be found in the video section of this web site, or on You-Tube.