Gun control debate takes center stage at the Roundhouse
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham outlined eight gun safety initiatives just before the legislative session got started.
The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee approved three of those gun safety initiatives Thursday.
The three bills include a proposed 14-day waiting period for all gun sales, a bill to raise the age to buy and possess guns to 21 years old, and a proposed assault weapons ban based on U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s federal proposal.
They all passed along party lines Thursday and will move on to another House committee.
The governor mentioned all three of those initiatives during her State of the State address and made it clear she wants lawmakers to get them across the finish line. She echoed that sentiment during a virtual event Thursday morning with national gun safety groups, Everytown USA and Moms Demand Action.
Lujan Grisham said it’s clear it is up to states to move the needle on gun safety. She noted New Mexico’s current gun laws did not prevent a mass shooting in Farmington last year, and believes her proposals are the right solution.
“We have all the other laws in place, extreme risk protection orders, I mean, all of the safeguards didn’t prevent this issue. We have to do all of them, not one of them, all of them, if we’re going to meet our constitutional responsibility to keep children and their families safe in their homes and neighborhoods and communities,” Lujan Grisham said.
Republican lawmakers have been quick to challenge all of the governor’s gun safety proposals as well as her executive order from last year that was intended to curb gun violence. They firmly agree all of them infringe upon Second Amendment rights and suggest they will face challenges in court.
The governor addressed that Thursday.
“I think courts balancing that constitutional question are beginning to also recognize like all of our constitutional rights, the absoluteness is a valid question for them to debate, particularly when the constitutional safety of everyone else is in the mix here,” Lujan Grisham said.
There are four Democrats and two Republicans on the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.
WAITING PERIOD FOR FIREARM SALES
House Bill 129 would require all buyers in New Mexico to wait 14 business days to get their weapons. That would be the second-longest waiting period in the U.S. for handguns and semiautomatic weapons – behind only Minnesota where a 30-day waiting period was implemented last year.
New Mexico’s 14-day waiting period would be the longest in the nation for all other guns.
Democratic Rep. Andrea Romero says it’s meant to serve as a cooling-off period to allow time for federally-required background checks to be completed.
“That’s what we’re closing, with the current loophole that if you did not have a verified background check in the state of New Mexico currently, a federally licensed dealer could just hand over that firearm without that background check, and that creates a potentially very dangerous situation,” Romero said.
ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN
House Bill 137 would ban gas-operated semiautomatic guns. It focuses on the inner mechanisms of a weapon – not how it looks.
It mimics a federal bill U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich has introduced. The bill also prohibits detachable magazine holding more than 10 bullets – bump stocks – and other attachments.
There are exceptions. People who already own this type of gun will be grandfathered in, but they would be added to a registry overseen by the New Mexico Department of Justice.
Rep. Romero introduced a similar bill last year, but there are major changes this time.
RAISING THE MINIMUM PURCHASE AGE TO 21
House Bill 127 would raise the age to legally purchase a semi or fully-automatic firearm to 21.
People who are 18 would still be able to purchase revolvers or bolt action rifles, for example. There are a few exceptions for this bill – that includes .22 caliber rifles – and if the 18- to 20-year-old works for law enforcement.
The bill also makes an exception for shooting competitions and hunting.