Legislators in New Mexico divided on proposed gun control measures

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SANTA FE, N.M. — House lawmakers spent three hours Thursday debating new proposed penalties for some gun owners in the state. It was not the image of bipartisanship championed by the same lawmakers and the governor just a few weeks ago.

House Minority Leader Ryan Lane was not afraid to voice his concerns with House Bill 9, known as the Bennie Hargrove Act, Thursday afternoon.

“The fact that we’re creating a new felony, that’s why I think we need New Mexicans to understand what this bill does, what this bill doesn’t,” Lane said.

Other Republican lawmakers felt the same.

“This legislation has so many problems with that, that I can spend hours on it,” said Rep. Bill Rehm.

House Majority Leader Gail Chasey believes those concerns lost focus of what lawmakers were actually debating.

“Our job, as adults, is to protect children,” Rep. Chasey said. “That was the gist of the debate or of the legislation itself. I think maybe we got off that topic somewhat.”

However, Chasey said the debate wasn’t unproductive, at least in the big picture.

“What we achieved or have achieved so far in the discussion is an understanding by each side, of each other’s positions,” Chasey said.

That understanding seemed to influence seven Democrats to cross the aisle and vote against HB 9.

“Bipartisanship is really, it’s relationship building,” Lane said. “And “So it’s taking an approach that you want to be genuine when you say you want to make bills better, and you want to stand up and fight for things that care that New Mexicans care about.”

Both Lane and Chasey expect future gun-related proposals to face similar scrutiny. Lane suggests that’s how lawmakers should approach every proposal on their desks.

“It should be hard, frankly, to get a bill passed,” Lane said. “We have a lot of laws on the books already. So it should be difficult to get it through the process, and our system is designed that way.”

Both Lane and Chasey also noted that Thursday’s debate remained respectful throughout, and believe both sides are working together on other important pieces of legislation – including some education proposals.

Track HB 9 during the legislative session.