Perspective on gun laws, as Democrats call for change

[anvplayer video=”5111638″ station=”998122″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 21 people dead, lawmakers and legal experts are reacting to the conversation surrounding gun laws in America.

On Thursday, with encouragement from top Republicans in Congress, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has decided to meet to discuss gun-safety legislation. That group includes Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), according to a spokesperson for the senator.

On Twitter this week, Sen. Heinrich said, “As a gun owner myself, I refuse to accept the premise that it is impossible to find agreement” on stricter gun control laws, saying he’d, “… support a ban on assault weapons.”

His fellow Democrats representing New Mexico in Washington are also strongly pushing for more gun control. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) has pointed out the U.S. House has passed a universal background checks bill, and now it’s in the hands of the Senate, where Republicans are using a tactic to delay a vote.

“We need to put pressure on the U.S. Senate, and we need to abolish the filibuster if we’re going to get meaningful legislation passed,” the congresswoman told KOB 4 Wednesday in Albuquerque.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said he’s on board, tweeting, “We need to…” “… pass H.R. 8.”

On Twitter, the lone Republican in the state’s delegation, Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), called for “praying” for the victims and others affected. KOB 4 asked her office Wednesday and Thursday to comment further and to respond to what Democrats are saying, but did not hear back.

Legal experts said there have been very few changes to gun laws at the federal level since the Sandy Hook shooting 10 years ago. 

The Trump administration banned bump stocks, which the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooter used to shoot much more quickly, and President Biden issued an executive order to crack down on so-called “ghost guns,” which can be put together at home.

“Those are the things that Sandy Hook began to change, but if you look at the broad spectrum, the broader view of Second Amendment rights, they’re not huge leaps toward restrictions,” UNM law professor Joshua Kastenberg said.

He added that the U.S. Supreme Court has made decisions that would allow Congress to pass more restrictions on guns, but today’s group of justices may not side with those past rulings.

New Mexico doesn’t have many of the restrictive gun laws other states have.

There are no magazine limits, no ban of certain kinds of guns, and no lockup requirement – after a bill failed in the state legislature this year aimed at preventing kids from getting their hands on their parents’ guns.

“I would say it’s on the side of the equation of being gun-friendly if you compare it to the country as a whole,” Kastenberg said.

New Mexico has added some gun control laws in the last few years. A red flag law allows those close to a gun owner to ask a judge to temporarily order them to stay away from their weapons for their safety and for the safety of others. Background checks were expanded. There are tougher penalties for some gun crimes and a longer list of crimes that cause a person to no longer be able to legally own a gun.