Following the latest mass shooting, one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators wants to repeal an amendment that bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence and its impact on public health. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced his opposition to the Dickey Amendment Tuesday, saying that CDC research is necessary to help find solutions to curb gun violence. “I am calling for the repeal of the Dickey Amendment because I am fed up with tragedies like the mass shootings in Parkland, Las Vegas, and Aztec,” Heinrich said. I am also heartsick over the estimated 91 Americans killed each day by gun violence.”
The Dickey Amendment, implemented in 1996, specifically stopped the CDC from using any funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” The National Rifle Association was a driving force behind the amendment at the time. The amendment itself is gaining attention, as mass shootings have increased over recent years, and debate over why has no authority to look back on.
It’s predictable after every new mass-shooting horror: The political right’s reflexive call for “thoughts and prayers,” which is then mocked by people who favor more gun restrictions for lacking any accompanying ideas for preventing future killings. But there’s an equally predictable refrain on the center-left and in the media, too: “Once again, nothing will be done.”
Barely had the death toll of 17 been announced last week after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida than The Washington Post declared, “The gun debate is going nowhere quickly after Parkland.” CNN offered: “Amid continued string of mass shootings, gun control going nowhere in Congress.” After 59 concert-goers were mowed down in October, former Democratic congressman Steve Israel put to rest any hope for reform in a New York Times op-ed column titled “Nothing Will Change After the Las Vegas Shooting.”
This fatalism is borne of hard-won experience. Congress has failed repeatedly to pass any gun-control measures after past calamities, even the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.Yet this world-weary defeatism is self-fulfilling in its own way, and helps explain why Washington hasn’t taken action to address the killing. For one thing, such pessimism demoralizes, and dismisses, those who are motivated to fight against gun violence, such as the network of angry moms that sprung up after the Sandy Hook massacre and the organization led by former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, which have managed to achieve a series of state-level successes even as reform stalls at the national level. For another thing, it lets off the hook those who are opposed to stronger gun laws.
One of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators introduced legislation that would make sure those convicted of domestic violence offenses in the military cannot own a firearm. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, worked with U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican, on sponsoring the legislation. Both men described the bill as one that can pass with bipartisan support and will have a real-world impact. They introduced the bill in response to the fact that the man who killed over two dozen men, women and children in a Sutherland Springs, Texas church was convicted of assault against his wife and step-child and discharged for bad conduct while a member of the U.S. Air Force. The alleged murderer was still able to buy guns despite a federal ban preventing those convicted of domestic violence from buying firearms.
But there is no specification in the Uniform Code of Military Justice for domestic assault, Flake said, only for assault. Because of this, the military has not been reporting convictions of what would be classified as domestic assault in non-military courts to a federal database of domestic abusers meant to prevent them from owning weapons.
The New Mexico Senate on Saturday approved a bill that would make it illegal for anyone but police officers and people with concealed-carry licenses to have a gun in the state Capitol. Senate Bill 337, sponsored by Sens. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, and Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, passed on a bipartisan vote of 29-12. Seven Senate Republicans joined 22 Democrats in supporting the bill. And three Democrats voted with nine Republicans in opposing it.
What began as a bipartisan compromise bill to ban people from openly carrying guns in the state Capitol is now bogged down in the Senate and at risk of being defeated. Senate Bill 337 would restrict possession of guns in the Capitol to police officers and people with a license to carry a concealed firearm. Sponsored by Sens. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, and Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, the bill cleared two Senate committees after being pitched as a way to balance the rights of law-abiding people who want to arm themselves and the impact on visitors to the Capitol who said they were intimidated by others openly carrying firearms, including long guns. The bill has been on the legislative calendar for a vote by the full, 42-member Senate for a week.
Partially paralyzed and speaking in just a few simple sentences, a former U.S. congresswoman shot in the head six years ago during a rampage that left a half-dozen people dead delivered the most high-profile endorsement yet of two gun-control bills being considered in the New Mexico Legislature. “I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line,” Gabrielle Giffords told a crowd of reporters and gun-control advocates at the Capitol on Wednesday. “Now is the time to come together — to be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone.” Giffords’ appearance at the Legislature demonstrated the campaign for gun control is not letting up during the final weeks of the session.
A 29-year-old Albuquerque man was accused of firing a .45-caliber pistol multiple times at a car carrying a couple and their 2-month-old baby. Last year, the man was charged with several felonies stemming from the September 2015 incident in Northern New Mexico. He pleaded not guilty and was released from jail on bond. One of the conditions of his release prohibited him from possessing firearms.
Just two weeks later, however, the suspect responded to an online ad for an AK WASR-10 rifle. He repeatedly called and texted the would-be seller, offering to pay $300 in cash.
A House committee on Saturday advanced a bill that would expand required background checks to include most gun purchases in New Mexico. After a hearing that lasted more than three hours, the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-1 along party lines in favor of House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos. The committee’s action mirrored that of a Senate panel that last week approved an identical proposal, Senate Bill 48. While the New Mexico Legislature is moving toward expanding mandatory background checks, Congress is heading in the other direction. The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted 235-180 to scuttle an Obama-era rule requiring background checks for gun purchases by some Social Security recipients with mental disabilities.
A state Senate committee listened to an hour of emotional testimony Tuesday, then voted 5-3 on party lines to advance a bill expanding background checks for people buying guns. The packed hearing room included a sea of red T-shirts worn by members of a gun safety advocacy group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Many people fighting the measure also turned out, including a group of law enforcement officials who wore stickers announcing their opposition to Senate Bill 48 and the identical House Bill 50, which is scheduled for its first committee hearing Saturday. People on both sides of the issue shared personal stories with the Senate Public Affairs Committee about how violence has adversely affected their lives. Robin Brulé of Albuquerque, who supports expanding background checks, recounted how a robber shot and killed her mother, a 75-year-old retired teacher, last year in Arizona.
With less than two weeks to go before the beginning of the 2017 state legislative session, four lawmakers have already filed bills on a controversial reoccurring topic—guns. One bill from two prominent Democratic senators seeks to mandate background checks on gun owners who transfer firearms between each other. That bill, filed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and longtime Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, would exempt background checks for gun transfers between family members, licensed gun dealers and law enforcement officers and agencies. Opponents of the current process often call it the “gun show loophole,” since some of these background check-free firearm transfers occur at gun shows. State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, has also prefiled a similar bill in the state House of Representatives.