Following the latest mass shooting, one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators wants to repeal an amendment that bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence and its impact on public health. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced his opposition to the Dickey Amendment Tuesday, saying that CDC research is necessary to help find solutions to curb gun violence. “I am calling for the repeal of the Dickey Amendment because I am fed up with tragedies like the mass shootings in Parkland, Las Vegas, and Aztec,” Heinrich said. I am also heartsick over the estimated 91 Americans killed each day by gun violence.”
The Dickey Amendment, implemented in 1996, specifically stopped the CDC from using any funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” The National Rifle Association was a driving force behind the amendment at the time. The amendment itself is gaining attention, as mass shootings have increased over recent years, and debate over why has no authority to look back on.
It’s predictable after every new mass-shooting horror: The political right’s reflexive call for “thoughts and prayers,” which is then mocked by people who favor more gun restrictions for lacking any accompanying ideas for preventing future killings. But there’s an equally predictable refrain on the center-left and in the media, too: “Once again, nothing will be done.”
Barely had the death toll of 17 been announced last week after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida than The Washington Post declared, “The gun debate is going nowhere quickly after Parkland.” CNN offered: “Amid continued string of mass shootings, gun control going nowhere in Congress.” After 59 concert-goers were mowed down in October, former Democratic congressman Steve Israel put to rest any hope for reform in a New York Times op-ed column titled “Nothing Will Change After the Las Vegas Shooting.”
This fatalism is borne of hard-won experience. Congress has failed repeatedly to pass any gun-control measures after past calamities, even the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.Yet this world-weary defeatism is self-fulfilling in its own way, and helps explain why Washington hasn’t taken action to address the killing. For one thing, such pessimism demoralizes, and dismisses, those who are motivated to fight against gun violence, such as the network of angry moms that sprung up after the Sandy Hook massacre and the organization led by former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, which have managed to achieve a series of state-level successes even as reform stalls at the national level. For another thing, it lets off the hook those who are opposed to stronger gun laws.
One of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators introduced legislation that would make sure those convicted of domestic violence offenses in the military cannot own a firearm. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, worked with U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican, on sponsoring the legislation. Both men described the bill as one that can pass with bipartisan support and will have a real-world impact. They introduced the bill in response to the fact that the man who killed over two dozen men, women and children in a Sutherland Springs, Texas church was convicted of assault against his wife and step-child and discharged for bad conduct while a member of the U.S. Air Force. The alleged murderer was still able to buy guns despite a federal ban preventing those convicted of domestic violence from buying firearms.
But there is no specification in the Uniform Code of Military Justice for domestic assault, Flake said, only for assault. Because of this, the military has not been reporting convictions of what would be classified as domestic assault in non-military courts to a federal database of domestic abusers meant to prevent them from owning weapons.
What began as a bipartisan compromise bill to ban people from openly carrying guns in the state Capitol is now bogged down in the Senate and at risk of being defeated. Senate Bill 337 would restrict possession of guns in the Capitol to police officers and people with a license to carry a concealed firearm. Sponsored by Sens. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, and Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, the bill cleared two Senate committees after being pitched as a way to balance the rights of law-abiding people who want to arm themselves and the impact on visitors to the Capitol who said they were intimidated by others openly carrying firearms, including long guns. The bill has been on the legislative calendar for a vote by the full, 42-member Senate for a week.
Partially paralyzed and speaking in just a few simple sentences, a former U.S. congresswoman shot in the head six years ago during a rampage that left a half-dozen people dead delivered the most high-profile endorsement yet of two gun-control bills being considered in the New Mexico Legislature. “I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line,” Gabrielle Giffords told a crowd of reporters and gun-control advocates at the Capitol on Wednesday. “Now is the time to come together — to be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone.” Giffords’ appearance at the Legislature demonstrated the campaign for gun control is not letting up during the final weeks of the session.
A 29-year-old Albuquerque man was accused of firing a .45-caliber pistol multiple times at a car carrying a couple and their 2-month-old baby. Last year, the man was charged with several felonies stemming from the September 2015 incident in Northern New Mexico. He pleaded not guilty and was released from jail on bond. One of the conditions of his release prohibited him from possessing firearms.
Just two weeks later, however, the suspect responded to an online ad for an AK WASR-10 rifle. He repeatedly called and texted the would-be seller, offering to pay $300 in cash.
House Democrats staged a sit-in that lasted well into Thursday morning. The two Democrats in hte U.S. House from New Mexico took part in the sit-in. The Democrats sought a vote on a piece of legislation related to guns dubbed “no fly, no buy” which would bar those on terror watchlists from purchasing guns
The Democrats did not get their way when it came to a vote on the bill before the House adjourned for a recess for the 4th of July, but did get a likely secondary objective: a confrontation with House Republican leadership. Sen. Udall, Rep. Lujan Grisham and I on floor calling for vote to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists pic.twitter.com/ZkCE4nxcWA
— Ben Ray Lujan (@repbenraylujan) June 22, 2016
The bill itself has a New Mexico connection—U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is one of those who negotiated the compromise with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Heinrich said the sit-in could be helpful.
Two of New Mexico’s U.S. Representatives are part of a sit-in by Democrats demanding a vote on legislation related to guns. Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján, both Democrats, joined the sit-in led by Civil Rights movement leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., calling on what Democrats call the “no fly, no buy” bill. The legislation would bar those who are on terrorist watch lists from buying guns. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is one of the cosponsors of the bipartisan “no fly, no buy” legislation.
Most of the New Mexico Congressional delegation issued statements on Tuesday afternoon regarding executive actions regarding guns announced by the White House this week. After President Obama announced his executive orders to increase gun control on Monday, and held an emotional press conference on Tuesday, the Democrats in New Mexico Congressional delegation issued statements proclaiming their support. Still, some are calling on more action from Congress to increase regulations on guns. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said in a statement that he supports the President’s actions, but that it’s not enough. “I have voted for commonsense legislation to prevent gun trafficking, expand background checks and improve access to quality mental health care,” Udall said.
A House committee tabled legislation that would have closed the “gunshow loophole” on Saturday afternoon. The vote came on a party-line vote with four Republicans voting to table the legislation and three Democrats voting against tabling. This means unless one of the Republicans has a change of heart, which is very unlikely, the bill is dead for the year. The bill, HB 44, was sponsored by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque. In his presentation of the bill, Garcia said the bill was “merely” to close the gunshow loophole.