Legislative Update

March 17, 2001

Concealed Carry

After seven years' work, the proponents of concealed carry (which allows law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed firearm) finally got a bill through both houses and sent to the governor. We expect him to sign it.

It is not a great bill, but it does allow New Mexicans to carry a concealed handgun, after mandatory training and a background check, a privilege some 35 states have already extended to their citizens. I have always supported this measure, voting for it as it passed the senate in 1997 and 1999, and did so again this year.

The law will go into effect on July 1. There is an "opt-out" provision (something I opposed). What this means is that it will be the law of the entire state unless local governments (city councils and county commissions) decide by ordinance that they do not want concealed carry in their jurisdictions. This does set up the potential for a patchwork, or checkerboard-like, array of counties and cities, with some allowing concealed carry and others prohibiting it.

I emphasized the word "potential" because I do not believe this will actually take place. In reality, we only expect the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque to have serious fights over this law, and possibly some socially liberal areas like Los Alamos County. There is little question that it is a bad situation to have as a potential, however the overall bill could not be passed without a number of amendments being added, and this was one of them.

I believe that the cities of Roswell and Artesia, as well as the counties of Chaves and Eddy, will not act to prohibit concealed carry within the limits of their jurisdictions. However, those decisions are now in the hands of city councilors and county commissioners. State legislators are out of the picture at this point.

Other restrictions placed on the bill---as a condition of gaining enough swing votes to pass it---include a $100 application fee (too high in my view), a one- year license (too short a time and too inconvenient for law-abiding citizens) and $50 annual renewal fees (also too high). For the record, we had sought a four-year license with a total cost not to exceed $100 during that timeframe. What we have is $250.

This is the way of politics. Most of the time you don't get a bill at all. Sometimes you get far less than you seek, but you get something. Rarely do you get exactly what you want. Given the impossibility of passing anything through the House of Representatives during the previous seven years, those of us who support this privilege will accept the bill as a step forward.

Personally, I have no desire to have a license myself, but hundreds of my constituents do. I heard from more women than men. I also received a number of e-mails, phonecalls and letters from women in Albuquerque who work late shifts at hospitals or in other settings where they were uncomfortable getting to their cars at odd hours.