A glance at gun control bills in the New Mexico Legislature
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An ambitious slate of bills related to firearms and school safety could vault New Mexico to the forefront of efforts by states to stem gun violence through new legislation.
State lawmakers prepared for crucial hearings and votes this week with the approach of the Valentine’s Day anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The arrival in January of a Democratic governor to succeed a pro-gun rights Republican has opened the door to calls for broader background checks on private gun sales and initiatives to remove firearms from the hands of people who may be suicidal or seen as a danger to others.
Additional initiatives would ensure teachers cannot carry firearms at schools and expand child neglect laws to encompass the secure storage of household firearms.
Many of the bills are confronting public skepticism and opposition from rural sheriffs in a state with a strong culture of gun ownership. Here are things to know about the key proposals:
PRIVATE GUN SALES
State law says background checks are required on sales by licensed gun dealers to prevent illegal purchases by people including felons or patients treated involuntarily for severe mental disorders.
Democratic lawmakers aim to close an existing loophole that allows private sales between unlicensed individuals — often arranged through online marketplaces for guns.
Opponents of the initiative fear it would infringe on 2nd Amendment rights or might interfere with the innocuous sharing of weapons at sporting events or youth gun clubs — a point vigorously refuted by the bill’s sponsors, who say it applies only to sales where money is exchanged.
The House approved the initiative 41-25. A Senate vote is anticipated this week. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supports the measure.
Initial deliberations began Tuesday on a bill designed to keep guns out of the hands of young children by holding parents responsible for securing household firearms.
The bill from Democratic Rep. Linda Trujillo of Santa Fe would amend child abuse and neglect statutes to require reasonable actions from parents or guardians to secure firearms against access by children.
The bill suggests trigger-lock mechanisms or gun locker containers as examples of reasonable precautions, but leaves “reasonable” up to interpretation.
Republican Rep. Gregg Schmedes of Tijeras says that could lead to unfair sanctions against parents in high-crime areas who want to have guns unlocked and at the ready.
Trujillo says parents who run afoul of the law could eventually be found guilty of a misdemeanor for interfering with the protection of a child.
Nine states have passed laws over the past year allowing police or household members to seek court orders requiring people deemed threatening to temporarily surrender their guns, bringing the total to 14.
New Mexico would join that movement under a bill that supporters say holds promise for reducing suicides and homicides alike. Ahead of a House vote this week, the bill is running into opposition from dozens of sheriffs who say it endangers law enforcement and treads on individual constitutional rights.
Proponents of the bill include Police Chief Mike Heal of Aztec who was a first responder to a December 2017 high school shooting in which a 21-year-old gunman killed two students before killing himself.
Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf says the bill is in keeping with current law allowing police or psychiatrists to rescind gun-possession rights for the mentally ill.
The House has approved a bill that would ban gun possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence. A similar initiative was vetoed in 2017 by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, a former district attorney and strong supporter of gun rights. The bill includes stiffer penalties for felons found in illegal possession of a firearm.
Teachers would not be able to carry firearms at schools, under an additional bill from Trujillo that sets gun protocols for contract security employees and campus police.