Rep. Pamelya Herndon reacts to use of ‘Bennie’s Law’ in deadly shooting  

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SANTA FE, N.M. – State lawmakers’ recent actions are having a direct effect on the shooting death of a 13-year-old girl in Questa. 

Lawmakers passed Bennie’s Law to up the penalties for gun owners if a minor gets their gun and shoots someone. 

As of Sunday night, a teenage boy and his father are both facing charges and are in jail. 

The deadly shooting happened Friday afternoon in Questa – a village about 25 miles north of Taos. Police say a 14-year-old boy shot and killed a 13-year-old girl. 

State police say four teenagers were hanging out at a home alone when a boy took out his father’s gun, and shot and killed a 13-year-old girl. 

After the shooting, police say the boy dragged the girl’s body outside. Then, when the dad — 39-year-old William Brown – came home. The two refused to come out for at least 30 minutes.

The son is facing a first-degree murder charge, and assault on an officer among other charges. The father is facing a charge under the new Bennie’s Law, because it was his gun. The exact charge is negligent making a firearm accessible to a minor resulting in death. 

This is the first time this bill is being used to press charges.

“My initial reaction was disappointment and sadness, because we have spent a lot of time really warning and informing adults about keeping their firearms safely stored. And it was really sad to hear what happened in Questa,” said state Rep. Pamelya Herndon.  

Herndon introduced Bennie’s Bill more than two years ago, but it officially went into effect in June. 

The law stems from the shooing that killed Bennie Hargrove at Washington Middle School after a teenager brought his father’s gun from home.

“What the Bennie Hargrove Act was supposed to do of course was to work as a deterrent, and to remind adults that ‘Look, you have a responsibility if you own a firearm. You must properly store it if it is not with you.’ From what I can tell, that did not happen. We are still waiting on the investigation and the result to come out to get the facts in the story,” said Herndon. 

The law has two parts: misdemeanor charges if a firearm is not stored properly, or a fourth-degree felony if someone is hurt, or killed by a child who gets a hold of an adult’s gun.

“Because there was an individual who was killed the likelihood that it could be utilized for purposes of this bill would be the part that a fourth-degree felony could apply,” Herndon said. 

But for Herndon, passing the Bennie Hargrove Act was only the beginning.

“So the next step is to go to all 33 counties, and we’re looking to hold mini-educational sessions for adults and students regarding the safe storage of firearms,” said Herndon. 

Those educational tours start on Aug. 13. Herndon says they will be handing out free gun locks to everyone who attends a session.