Legislature Bars Sheriffs From Attending Because They Carry Guns
Santa Fe, NM – Sheriffs from all over New Mexico were refused entry to the state legislature’s opening session on Tuesday because they were armed.
"We were allowed to go into the Roundhouse but we weren't allowed to go down onto the floor. We were directed to go to another room and watch what was going on from a TV," Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace told KRQE.
"That has never happened to us before and that's a direct violation to the constitution of New Mexico. Not only that, the constitution of the United States, and that's just, as law enforcement officers, as peace officers, we carry weapons. That's just what we do," the sheriff continued.
In December of 2018, the Legislative Council voted to ban all weapons from the House of Representatives gallery during joint sessions, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
However, when the ban was enacted, nobody considered how that would affect armed law enforcement officers.
The result was that New Mexico State Police were put in the awkward position of having to ask sheriffs to disarm.
“This was not the intent,” Republican State Representative Rod Montoya told the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Approximately a dozen sheriffs, the highest-ranking law enforcement officers in their respective counties, were barred from attending New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan’s State of the State address on Jan. 15, KRQE reported.
"It only makes sense that if something is to happen, wouldn't you want sheriffs, your police chiefs, armed and ready to take action on this?" one of the sheriffs asked.
The mayor of Estancia, a small town in Torrance County, went to the state house on the first day of 2019 session to get a copy of the new rules banning weapons with his pistol on his hip.
Mayor Nathan Dial, 50, told Las Cruces Sun News that all he wanted was a piece of paper explaining the new rules.
Dial said nobody tried to disarm him, they just shuttled him off to one of three viewing rooms where the activities on the floor were being shown on television.
He told the Las Cruces Sun News that he was puzzled that guns were not banned in the viewing rooms inside the state house.
"If guns are such a threat, are [legislators] saying they are more important than their constituents in those rooms?" Dial asked.
The Capitol building’s superintendent, Raphael Baca, provided Dial with a copy of the new weapons ban about an hour after he arrived, the Las Cruces Sun News reported.
The mayor said he planned to post the ban on social media and talk to the National Rifle Association about it.
On Wednesday, Democratic Texas House Speaker Brian Egolf told the Santa Fe New Mexican that legislators planned to lift the ban for armed law enforcement for the remainder of the 60-day session.