Could any law stop mass killers or gangsters from getting firearms?
Martinez received perfect scores last year with .38- and .45-caliber handguns during her recertification.
But Martinez, a Republican, also spoke against a bill introduced in 2011 that would have allowed those with concealed-carry permits to bring handguns into schools. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Zach Cook of Ruidoso, died soon after.
What happened was a snapshot of New Mexico politics on guns and gun control.
There is great sentiment for the rights of law-abiding people to carry firearms, but the state’s executive would not support a bill allowing weaponry on campuses, in state parks or in businesses with liquor licenses.
Now America is debating whether gun control would help prevent slaughters like the one Friday in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adult staff members at a Connecticut elementary school.
Even after that tragedy and many others, it is clear that gun-control legislation would face a steep uphill climb in New Mexico.
Many of the state’s prominent Democrats, just like Republican Martinez, do not believe that trying to restrict guns would lessen crime or deter mass murderers.
Consider that in 2011, the National Rifle Association endorsed all three Democrats — Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Lujan and Harry Teague — who were running for Congress in New Mexico .
Each received an “A” rating from the country’s largest gun-rights organization. Two of the candidates, Heinrich and Lujan, won their elections.
Even so, state Sen. Howie Morales said he would not be surprised if certain New Mexico lawmakers offered gun-control bills during the 60-day session that begins in January.
“I’m sure people are going to bring some bills forward,” said Morales, D-Silver City. “As for whether they go anywhere, I don’t know.”
Sen. William Payne, a retired rear admiral and former Navy SEAL, said he was not so sure. The Connecticut tragedy is so fresh that Payne said he did not know what to expect.
“It’s too early to tell what will happen. Everybody’s still processing all this,” said Payne, R-Albuquerque.
The changing face of the Legislature is another factor that makes it difficult to project if a gun-control bill would have any chance of passing.
Twenty new members will take seats in the state House of Representatives, and the state will have 15 new senators.
That means 35 of the 112 state legislators will be freshmen. They will have much to do, and gun-control — or expansion of gun rights, as Cook proposed — may be low on the priority list.
More clear is that legislators will attempt to add money for school security.
Morales and and a fellow Democrat, Rep. Bobby Gonzales, a retired educator from Taos, both testified Monday that they were worried about cutbacks that had lessened security in schools. But their interim committee on education made no mention of gun control.
I have experience with school massacres, having covered two of them when I worked at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The settings of those tragedies could have not been more different, but the outcomes were similar in that they brought immense pain but no answers.
In 2006, a 32-year-old milkman in one of Pennsylvania’s most bucolic areas entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse, a building so simple that it did not have a telephone.
The man shot 10 girls, killing five. Then he killed himself.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, traveled to Amish country to try to console all those grieving families. The first question Rendell, right, took from reporters was whether gun control would have made a difference.
No, Rendell said. The shooter had the right to own a gun and, unfortunately, nobody could have predicted that he would use it to harm little girls.
Donations from all over the world poured in to help the Amish. They shared the money with the killer’s family. He left a wife and three kids of his own.
The other mass shooting I covered was at Virginia Tech in 2007. A 22-year-old student killed 32 people and wounded 17 more before committing suicide.
The killer was an English major. Faculty members in that department, upon hearing of the mass murders, immediately said they knew who fired the bullets. They were correct.
So antisocial and strange was the murderer, Seung-Hui Cho, that his explosion of violence came as no surprise to his professors.
Cho had been in the psychiatric ward of a hospital, but said he had no thoughts of murder or suicide.
Virginia Tech is a university with a military component. Its Corps of Cadets and its rural setting meant that almost nobody believed in trying to deny guns to people with clean records.
It is impossible to imagine that gun-control laws would have stopped Cho or the milkman in Pennsylvania, whose name was Charles Carl Roberts.
In turn, it is equally hard to conceive that any law would stop bad people from getting their hands on guns.
In Pittsburgh, I wrote my share of obituaries about innocents who were shot dead by gang members.
One of those murdered was the younger sister of Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch. She was 17, a junior in high school.
State Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, said he had not heard of any legislator planning to introduce gun-control legislation.
But as a life member of the NRA, Roch said, he would oppose any such proposals. Most Republicans and a fair number of Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature would agree with him.
As Sen. Morales said, we may see gun-control bills, but whether they get any traction is another issue.