Proposal to ban guns from polling places passes first Senate committee
SANTA FE, N.M. – Two of the governor’s gun safety initiatives cleared their first House committees Tuesday. On Wednesday, a third one focused on elections took its first step forward in the Senate.
Democratic state lawmakers want to ban guns at all polling places statewide. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth is sponsoring the proposal, which cleared the Senate floor in 2023 before stalling in the House.
The proposal would prohibit all firearms inside polling locations and within 100 feet of the entrance.
Wirth told the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday morning that’s the same distance campaign signs have to be from polling locations, and guns are already banned at polling locations inside schools.
Wirth says this bill is making sure all polling locations are on the same level.
“As we head into another turbulent election cycle, I think having consistency when it comes to banning guns at polling places is important. This bill came to me from constituents working as poll workers here in Santa Fe who several of whom stopped working as poll workers based on guns being in polling places,” said Wirth.
Fellow Democrats on the committee echoed their concerns about guns at polling places and potential voter intimidation.
Wirth says the bill is in line with a Supreme Court decision that argued guns can be restricted in sensitive places. He added there are exceptions for law enforcement and people simply passing by polling locations.
Republican lawmakers argued the proposed 100-foot barrier would actually disenfranchise some gun owners, but suggested there are potential compromises.
“Where I come from, people have weapons in their pickup trucks because they’re protecting their livestock,” said state Sen. Greg Nibert.
“Something that’s left out is the conceal carry,” said state Sen. Cliff Pirtle. “I think allowing those entering with a concealed carry permit would perhaps be an olive branch to the Republicans and a compromise I know I could agree with, because walking in, I probably didn’t intimidate anybody because you can’t see it.”
The bill was amended to also include early voting periods as well as Election Day before it was ultimately approved on party lines.
We’re expecting lawmakers to debate even more gun proposals this week.
A House committee is expected to discuss a proposed 14-day waiting period for gun sales, raising the age limit to own guns, and an assault weapons ban Thursday afternoon.