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.
House Democrats staged a sit-in that lasted well into Thursday morning. The two Democrats in hte U.S. House from New Mexico took part in the sit-in. The Democrats sought a vote on a piece of legislation related to guns dubbed “no fly, no buy” which would bar those on terror watchlists from purchasing guns
The Democrats did not get their way when it came to a vote on the bill before the House adjourned for a recess for the 4th of July, but did get a likely secondary objective: a confrontation with House Republican leadership. Sen. Udall, Rep. Lujan Grisham and I on floor calling for vote to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists pic.twitter.com/ZkCE4nxcWA — Ben Ray Lujan (@repbenraylujan) June 22, 2016 The bill itself has a New Mexico connection—U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is one of those who negotiated the compromise with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Heinrich said the sit-in could be helpful.
Two of New Mexico’s U.S. Representatives are part of a sit-in by Democrats demanding a vote on legislation related to guns. Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján, both Democrats, joined the sit-in led by Civil Rights movement leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., calling on what Democrats call the “no fly, no buy” bill. The legislation would bar those who are on terrorist watch lists from buying guns. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is one of the cosponsors of the bipartisan “no fly, no buy” legislation.
Update 5:30 pm: Heinrich spoke for roughly 20 minutes, mainly focusing on how as a gun owner himself, he can’t understand why the proposed reforms are controversial. “The fact that we’re arguing about this is unfathomable,” Heinrich said. “I can’t tell you how many times I have been through the background check process.” He also said he was proud of the many candlelight vigils that happened in New Mexico in response to the Orlando shootings. Heinrich asked Murphy whether his proposals include due process measures for people who feel wrongly listed on the federal Terrorist Watch List to contest their status.
Most of the New Mexico Congressional delegation issued statements on Tuesday afternoon regarding executive actions regarding guns announced by the White House this week. After President Obama announced his executive orders to increase gun control on Monday, and held an emotional press conference on Tuesday, the Democrats in New Mexico Congressional delegation issued statements proclaiming their support. Still, some are calling on more action from Congress to increase regulations on guns. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said in a statement that he supports the President’s actions, but that it’s not enough. “I have voted for commonsense legislation to prevent gun trafficking, expand background checks and improve access to quality mental health care,” Udall said.
The U.S. Senate is taking another crack at legislation to curb gun violence, a week after a shooting at an Oregon community college that left nine dead. Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico expressed support for the principles behind the legislation. The Senate introduced the legislation on Thursday with a letter from sponsors Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Debbie Stabinow, D-Mich. The letter was sent to their Senate colleagues, including both Democratic Senators from New Mexico. From NBC News: The changes would “bolster the background check system by strengthening it and stopping those who try to evade it,” the letter said.
In a fundraising email to supporters, an “angry” and “frustrated” Michelle Lujan Grisham called for “common sense” action to curb gun violence. In the email, from her Friends of Michelle campaign committee, she notes a Washington Post article that showed there have been more mass shootings so far this year than days in the year. The Washington Post has been tracking shootings with multiple people injured or killed, such as the Los Altos Skate Park shooting that left one dead, one paralyzed and several others injured. Other counts only list those with multiple people killed. Lujan Grisham said that the “gun culture” in the United States helps lead to the shootings.
After years of dispute, the governor of Texas signed legislation that will allow those in Texas to carry handguns openly in public. New Mexico already allows open carry, but the move in Texas brings renewed attention to the issue of openly carrying firearms.
The bill, which will not go into effect until next year, was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in June. One famous Texas-based fast food chain, however, told customers that non-concealed guns will not be permitted in stores. The president of Whataburger, Preston Atkinson, issued a statement on the company’s website earlier this month regarding the new gun law and how it will affect customers. He wrote that while the company proudly serves the gun rights advocates, only concealed handguns will be allowed in stores.