New Mexico lawmakers to propose gun safety bills

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Last month, Albuquerque police revealed gun law violations spiked 85% this year alone.

KOB 4 spoke with lawmakers Monday who are tasked with coming up with solutions, during the upcoming legislative session.

“Firearms have increased to become the leading cause of death for children,” said Rep. Reena Szczepanski. 

That’s according to 2020 data from the CDC, and it’s prompting Democratic legislators to double down on gun safety during the upcoming legislative session.

That includes a new proposal to raise the age requirement for purchasing AR-style rifles from 18 to 21.

“It’s basically closing a bit of a loophole, because right now the age to purchase other types of handguns, is 21. And so we’re looking at just this incremental approach,” said Szczepanski

Also, the comeback of the Bennie Hargrove Act, that would punish gun owners for not properly storing their weapons, especially when kids are around.

“That bill that is really geared at keeping children safe, keeping children safe in their homes, and really addressing responsible storage,” said Szczepanski.

Also known as House Bill 9 during the previous legislative session, the Bennie Hargrove Act was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee, where it was blocked by more than a dozen representatives.

“This was an unfair vote because it says your responsibility was to look at the financial impact and this has gone beyond that,” said Rep. Pamelya Herndon. 

Republican representatives say guns are only a small part of the issue.

“On the Democrat side, they are constantly pushing to focus on just the tool, the tool that is used to commit a crime, and not the issues that are actually behind all the reasons that we have very high levels of crime,” said Rep. Stefani Lord. “We are lacking severely on behavioral health and rehabilitation.”

Both parties agree that dialing back on crime is going to take a lot of work and bi-partisan cooperation.

“I know that there’s some bills being drafted for mental health and for rehabilitation, for drug addiction, and maybe those will get through, or maybe we can actually work together. Because I feel if the Republicans and the Democrats could work together on some of these issues, we might actually do what is best for New Mexico,” said Lord. 

“I see it as all intertwined. I don’t see it as either, or I think we need all of the above,” said Szczepanski.