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.
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.