Vasquez to support U.S. House resolution condemning governor on gun ban

Sep. 19—Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives will have an unlikely ally when they vote on a resolution condemning Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham over her executive order banning guns in Albuquerque and across Bernalillo County.

New Mexico's freshman congressman, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, plans to vote in support of the resolution castigating his state party's standard-bearer.

"As a responsible gun owner, I will continue to support common sense solutions that reduce gun violence, such as the Bipartisan Background Check Act and Ethan's Law, in addition to the proposals we need to support in the state of New Mexico, like the Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act," Vasquez said Tuesday in a statement.

"We must produce constitutional, legal and enforceable solutions that will help protect our children and our families," he added.

Vasquez, who is considered one of the most vulnerable House Democrats seeking reelection in 2024, is in a precarious position.

The representative for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District likely would expose himself to Republican attacks portraying him as anti-Second Amendment if he votes against the resolution. By voting in support, Vasquez will surely take some heat at home from Democrats, but his narrative will be that he's showing he's not just a rubber stamp for his party.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, who represents New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, said she plans to vote against the resolution. The state's third House member, U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, also a Democrat, declined to disclose how she plans to vote.

The resolution, which is non-binding, condemns the actions of the governor "for blatantly violating the Second Amendment to the Constitution and depriving the citizens of New Mexico of their right to bear arms."

Lujan Grisham amended the order last week following public outcry and a series of lawsuits. The order now limits the prohibition on openly carrying firearms or bringing concealed weapons to public places in Bernalillo County only to parks and playgrounds.

The Republican-sponsored resolution condemning the governor, attached to a so-called continuing resolution to fund the government, was scheduled to be considered on the House floor Tuesday afternoon. But it's been sidelined, at least for the time being, amid infighting in the Republican-controlled House — a point Democrats quickly seized upon in their defense of Vasquez.

"Instead of focusing on a politicized non-binding resolution, [House Speaker] Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans should be doing their jobs and working with Democrats on the most consequential issue facing Congress today, avoiding a government shutdown," Daniel Garcia, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said in a statement.

"But McCarthy and House Republicans would rather grandstand and distract while they hold the country hostage and send us further down the road toward a government shutdown," he said.

Lujan Grisham did not respond directly to Vasquez's plan to vote in support of the resolution. In a statement, she said "Congress should take immediate action to pass meaningful gun safety laws that will save lives" in Albuquerque and beyond instead of wasting time on "meaningless resolutions."

"Republicans in Congress have already shown they won't lift a finger to get guns out of the wrong hands," the governor said. "The fact is that they lack the courage to take on the NRA (National Rifle Association) and far-right special interests."

The resolution resulted in a spirited debate during Monday's House Rules Committee meeting, with Democrats accusing Republicans of using the governor's executive order as a political stunt.

"This resolution does absolutely nothing," said U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York. "It is plainly a waste of time intended to distract us from Republicans' failure to responsibly govern."

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., echoed the sentiment.

"I just want to say for the record I can't believe we've spent all this time talking about a nonbinding resolution," he said. "I mean, really, with all that's going on with regard to gun violence, with all that's going on with regard to the government about to be shut down, this is how we just spent all this time? I hope you're all proud of yourselves."

But Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wisconsin, said the resolution "recognizes our Second Amendment rights" and condemns the governor's "unconstitutional order" prohibiting New Mexicans from carrying firearms throughout Bernalillo County.

"The order has nothing to do with public health and only serves to infringe New Mexicans' rights while not preventing crime or violence," he said.

"You don't have to take my word for it," he added. "New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez, a Democrat, warned only responsible gun owners are likely to abide by the ban. ... This ban is not only bad policy detrimental to public safety, but it is blatantly unconstitutional. The Second Amendment is not a mere suggestion."

Leger Fernández, a member of the House Rules Committee, did not directly address the resolution during Monday's meeting. Rather, she advocated for gun violence protection laws to keep children safe and Congress' duty to pass a budget.

"What we've done in the last few weeks here, when we have incredibly important work to do with regards to funding our federal government, is actually spent a lot of time in this chamber attacking the rights of states under existing law to do stuff," she said. "We attacked California last week. This week, we ended up attacking my beloved New Mexico, and the reality is that gun violence is a tragic, tragic matter that affects every single one of our communities."

Tiffany, the Wisconsin representative, disputed the resolution was an attack on New Mexico.

"That's not it at all," he said. "We're rebuking the governor for trying to deny people their Second Amendment rights. This isn't against the people of the state of New Mexico."

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.