Gun Owners Rally At Capitol To Oppose Gun Control Bills

Gun Rights

State Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, addresses the crowd during a pro-gun rights rally outside the state Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

A man holding a 300 Blackout AR-15 rifle, left, and Danny Harkins, of Middle Mesa, N.M., listen to Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, while he addresses the crowd during a pro-gun rights rally outside the state Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

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By MAYA HILTY
The Santa Fe New Mexican

A strong sentiment among people rallying outside of the Roundhouse Saturday morning was that lawmakers trying to regulate guns know little about them.

“We are the gun owners of New Mexico,” Zach Fort, legislative affairs officer for the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association, a branch of the National Rifle Association, said at Saturday’s rally. “We’re obviously concerned about crime. [Gun control] is the wrong way to address it.”

About 200 people gathered in freezing temperatures to oppose a handful of gun control bills making their way through the Democratic-majority state Legislature. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association and New Mexico Firearms Industry Association organized the rally. Several Republican lawmakers attended, including Reps. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park; John Block, R-Alamogordo; Luis Terrazas, R-Silver City; Randall T. Pettigrew, R-Lovington; and Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice.

Speakers and protesters emphasized that violence in the U.S., while concerning, stems from societal problems such as poverty, failing schools and inadequate prosecution of criminals, not guns. Sanctioning law-abiding gun owners will not keep people safe, they said, but rather prevent people from being able to protect themselves from gun-toting criminals and the possibility of a tyrannical government.

“With all the things going on, it’s even more important to have the guns,” said Victor Segura, a veteran and gun collector who came to the rally from Albuquerque.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other Democratic leaders have made strengthening New Mexico’s gun regulations a priority for the 2024 legislative session. One bill making its way through House committees would prohibit people under 21 from buying or possessing an automatic or semi-automatic gun or magazine holding more than 10 round of ammunition, with several exceptions such as for hunting, competing or shooting on private property supervised by family.

Another, modeled after federal “GOSAFE” legislation introduced by New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, would, with certain exceptions, ban the sale or possession of gas-operated, semi-automatic guns and magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. A third bill, passed by the House on Friday, would impose a seven-day waiting period on gun sales.

Yet another bill headed to the House floor, titled the “Firearm Industry Accountability Act,” would require firearm makers and sellers to implement “reasonable controls” to, among other things, prevent sales to someone who cannot legally buy a gun, someone who intends to give the purchased gun to a third party or resell the gun unlawfully or someone the seller has “reasonable cause to believe” is at risk of using the gun to harm themself or others.

Erik Rasmussen, president of the state Firearms Industry Association, said such a law would “put all of the gun stores out of business in the state of New Mexico.”

Louie Sanchez, a co-owner of the Calibers gun stores in Albuquerque and a Republican candidate running against U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, agreed.

“There’s going to be so many frivolous lawsuits that are going to come out,” Sanchez said after the rally. “The way that bill is written — well, if there’s a victim of gun violence, which is a horrible thing, they can actually trace it all the way back to the retailer.”

Lawmakers “are blaming an inanimate object for something that could really be dealt with by just dealing with criminals,” he said. Meanwhile, “they have no idea what they’re even talking about with guns,” Sanchez said. The GOSAFE bill, he said, seems to ban whatever gun “is scary-looking to them,” echoing others at the rally who called its provisions arbitrary.

In a fiery speech, Lord said Democrats have labeled gun owners “the enemy” and warned the state is heading toward socialism.

“These radical progressives do not care about any of you,” she said, to applause.

State Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, addresses the crowd during a pro-gun rights rally outside the state Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

Viola Cortes, of Rio Rancho, holds a sign while listening to state Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, during a pro-gun rights rally outside the state Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

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