Several gun control bills have sparked controversy in New Mexico this year. Below is a breakdown of those bills, what critics are saying about them and where they stood as of press time Wednesday …
Several gun control bills have sparked controversy in New Mexico this year. Below is a breakdown of those bills, what critics are saying about them and where they stood as of press time Wednesday (March 6). Note that these bills may have been amended after press time.
House Bill 40 – “Gun show firearm transfer act”
What it says: The first of two gun control bills this year aimed at closing loopholes in gun sales would require private gun sellers without a federal firearms license to conduct a federal background check at gun shows. This would require arbitration by a federally licensed firearms dealer, whose service fee would be capped at $25. Bill proponents argue federal background checks reduce the likelihood firearms will fall into the wrong hands.
What its critics say: The universality of federal background checks for firearms may pose unfair additional costs and legal risk on otherwise law-abiding gun owners, dealers and people who plan to purchase a firearm. Criminals, they argue, will continue to ignore the law, doing little to prevent gun violence.
Where it stands: This bill was reported with a “do pass recommendation” by the House committee on Jan. 28.
HB 83 – “Extreme risk protection order act”
What it says: Known as “red flag” laws, a “household member” who doesn’t necessarily share a home with another person may file a petition with a state district court judge arguing why that person is a danger and should have their firearms temporarily seized. If a judge approves the petition, law enforcement can be ordered “immediately” to serve the petition and remove weapons from the accused person. Petitions are filed under oath, but if a false claim is made, a petitioner must be proven to have done so “in bad faith or with malicious purpose.” Firearms can be held by law enforcement for as long as one year, depending on the circumstances.
What its critics say: In its current form, HB 83 allows judges to order law enforcement immediately to remove firearms from an accused party prior to providing that person with a first hearing where evidence can be presented in their defense. Critics argue that this is a violation of due process. The bill’s definition of the term “household member” has also been criticized as being too broad.
Where it stands: This bill passed in the state House of Representatives with a 39-30 vote on Feb. 13, the anniversary of the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were killed last year. It is now before Senate committees.
HB 130 – “Negligent storage of a firearm”
What it says: An adult in New Mexico who fails properly to secure a firearm in a home where a child is present would face legal penalties, which would range in severity depending on the circumstances. If a firearm were not stored properly, an adult could be charged with a petty misdemeanor. If a child gains access to a weapon and “exhibits it in a public place” or threatens another person with it, the charge would escalate to a misdemeanor. If the child’s possession of the firearm results in injury or death, the gun owner could face a fourth-degree felony. Sponsors argue that improper storage of firearms in a home are a common cause of youth suicide and have led to school shootings.
What its critics say: Two common charges currently filed in cases where a firearm is not secured in a home where children are present are: abuse or neglect of a child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Both can be charged as felonies. Some law enforcement officials argue that broadening the penalties of this crime to include petty misdemeanor and misdemeanors weakens current laws.
Where it stands: This bill was reported with a “do not pass recommendation” by the House committee on Feb. 13, but with a “do pass” recommendation by committee substitution.
Senate Bill 8 – “Federal background checks between private individuals”
What it says: The move toward universal federal background checks would extend to sales between private individuals outside the context of a gun show. Buyers in this situation would also be required to foot the bill for conducting the check. This bill caps each check at $35 per transaction. Law enforcement would be exempt from the requirement. An amendment also exempts immediate family members from the background check requirement.
What its critics say: As with HB 40, gun owners and sellers see the expansion of federal background checks as a move that will do more to punish the law-abiding gun owner than reduce gun violence by the criminal one, whose weapons are often obtained illegally in the first place.
Where it stands: This bill passed in the state Senate on Feb. 14 with a 22-20 vote and in the state House on March 4 with a 42-27 vote. It lacks only the governor’s signature to become law.
Senate Bill 201 – “Firearm transfer act”
What it says: Federal background checks would be required in most situations where a person intends to give a firearm to another person not for the purpose of sale and would allow a review of a person’s behavioral health history. As with HB 40 and SB 8, this would again require a federally licensed gun dealer to conduct the check. Violations would result in a misdemeanor. Transferring “antique” firearms would not require a check. Sponsors argue that access to a potential buyer’s mental health history could prevent sales to potentially violent people.
What its critics say: Critics are again concerned that the extension of federal background checks to private individuals will prove burdensome and costly.
Where it stands: This bill was sent to the Senate Public Affairs Committee on Jan. 17 and remains pending in the state Senate.
– Compiled by John Miller
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