It probably comes as no surprise that gun control is on our minds right now, and there’s every sign that it will be a big issue in the legislature as well. As a father, a community member, and a human being, I’m deeply affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, as I know most of you are.
That we are united in our horror and sorrow over the loss of innocent children is beyond debate. What we are going to do about it is, of course, not.
Many of you have shared with me your feelings about gun control, both overall and in response to my support of HB77 closing the “gun show loophole” by requiring background checks. (click here for the full bill).
As a citizen legislator, my duty is to be your voice in the Roundhouse. With difficult issues like gun control, this is a challenge, to say the least — and one I’m fully willing to undertake. I do not believe the solutions to these complex issues lie in partisanship or in demonizing those who disagree with us.
Many of you on both sides of the gun control debate have made intelligent, thoughtful arguments, which I have been considering at length. I would like to take a few minutes to share my reactions to what I’m hearing from all of you.
To start with, it’s important to acknowledge that many people have a very human, very simple need to “do something” in wake of the horrific shootings in Connecticut. We tend not to want to stand helplessly by when faced with tragedy. I get that.
One of the ways people want to help is to want to pass a lot of “feel good” legislation that doesn’t solve the problem, just to avoid feeling helpless (and unfortunately, sometimes to score political points, too). I think a lot of what’s been proposed by both sides since the tragedy in Connecticut falls into this category — political posturing, point scoring and ineffective “feel good” legislation.
The problem is that “feel good” legislative is a simple answer to a complex problem. And those sorts of simple answers rarely work.
Growing up here in Northern New Mexico, I respect the role that gun ownership holds in our culture. For many people in our community, owning a gun is a necessary part of living in the isolated areas that many of us call home, where a 911 call means help could be a half an hour or more away.
I was also raised to respect the hunting traditions of our diverse cultures. Passing a cherished firearm from father to son is part of the heritage of the American West. Ritual hunting is a sacred part of many centuries-old Native American and Hispanic traditions. And for many families, hunting still puts needed food on the table.
Finally, I regard it as part of my sworn duty as a state representative to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States, as well as our state constitution. Love it or hate it, the 2nd Amendment is part of our national heritage and stands as the rule of law. Many people interpret the 2nd Amendment to mean that citizens have the right to own private firearms, and I tend to agree. We have the right to amend and interpret the 2nd Amendment, but not to ignore or trample on it just because we don’t like it.
However, there is, perhaps, a difference between trampling on a right and putting limits on it.
We have long placed common sense guidelines on the exercising of our constitutional rights. We limit the right to vote to people who register within a certain timeframe, live in a certain area, and in many states, to people who haven’t been convicted of a felony. We limit freedom of speech to exclude libel, slander and child pornography. Limiting the right of gun ownership to citizens who respect the law and are mentally stable and of age is, like these other restrictions, a reasonable guideline that makes common sense to most people, including myself.
Based on what I’m hearing from the people I represent, most view HB77 as just such a common sense precaution. It is a moderate, limited bill that simply closes an unfair loophole by requiring gunshows to play by the same rules as retail gun stores — restrictions that do not bar honest, law abiding and responsible people from purchasing firearms.
There are those of you who will not agree with this assessment. And I know from what you’ve shared that your disagreement does not mean you aren’t moved by the tragedy in Connecticut, or that you don’t understand the need to protect public safety, or any of the other things that those who oppose gun control are often accused of. I hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts with me, as they have and will continue to inform my legislative decisions.