State legislators put partisanship aside to strengthen gun laws
December 21, 2017 07:46 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It's tough to think of an issue that weighs more heavily on the hearts and minds of Duke City residents than crime.
2017 was a record year for homicides in the city, crime spiked in several categories and the city still ranks high on several lists you don't want to rank high on. State lawmakers are taking notice, and with the New Mexico Legislature just weeks away from convening, members of both parties are thinking about ideas to increase public safety.
"You have a senior Democrat and a senior Republican getting together saying, 'Let's look at individual pieces of legislation to really address the violent crime,'" said Republican State Sen. Bill Rehm.
Rehm and Democratic State Rep. Moe Maestas are putting political differences aside to find solutions.
"Statewide legislators need to realize that Albuquerque crime is a state problem," Maestas said. "I think we'll address that next month."
House Bill 25 aims to increase penalties for a felon in possession of a firearm. Currently, the crime constitutes a fourth-degree felony; the new law would make it a third-degree felony, which carries a stiffer prison sentence.
"What we are trying to do is – for some reason the penalty is not stiff enough for the criminal to say, 'I'm not going to use a gun,'" Rehm said.
Meanwhile, House Bill 29 lengthens prison sentences for people who use a gun in a crime. Currently, the enhancement is one year. The legislation takes that enhancement to three years.
"This is actually using the firearm in the commission of a felony; shooting at someone or shooting someone, doing something with a firearm," Rehm said. "So we are increasing the penalty on that to see if we can get the change in behavior."
New Mexico is currently the only state with a 6-year statute of limitations for second-degree murder, meaning police and prosecutors have a limited time to seek justice. House
House Bill 33 would completely do away with the statute of limitations.
"Homicides, however – the death of a human being – there should be no statute of limitations. You should be able to bring that case 50 to 60 years down the road," Maestas said. "So we need to close this loophole for homicides…particularly for the cold cases."
The legislative session begins Jan. 16, and solving crime issues is expected to be a big focus.
Updated: December 21, 2017 07:46 PM
Created: December 21, 2017 07:43 PM
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