New rules at the New Mexico State Capitol meant armed sheriffs couldn’t enter House gallery. (Photo: Getty Images)

 

As hundreds flooded the Roundhouse to take part in the first day of the new session, there were visitors who were shut out of the action Tuesday.

Sheriffs came to the Roundhouse to meet with lawmakers and listen to the governor’s speech, but because they were armed, they were told they couldn’t come into the House gallery.

“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 said. “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.”

About a dozen sheriffs stood together, upset about what happened Tuesday. They say they’re the highest ranking law enforcement officials in their respective counties and have a duty to protect people at all times but felt like that duty was stripped away from them.

“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?” said another sheriff.

A spokesperson with the Legislative Council Services said in December, the council voted to ban all weapons from the House gallery for all joint sessions of the legislature.

KRQE News 13 is told the only people allowed to have weapons on them during that time is State Police and the Sergeant at Arms.

The sheriffs said that a few repr​​esentatives brought this up on the floor Wednesday morning, upset about what happened and want this fixed.

Roundhouse security said they’re going to clarify if current law enforcement officials are exempt from that council rule before Thursday’s next joint session.

By Rachel Knapp | KRQE News