January 6, 2017

Gun bills coming this session


Open carry rally in Richmond, VA in 2010. Flickr cc

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.

Two other pieces of legislation filed by longtime Sen. Steven Neville, R-Aztec, seek to ease regulations on carrying and concealing firearms.

One of Neville’s bills would allow adults to conceal and carry their guns without having to obtain a concealed carry permit from the state. Neville also prefiled the same change as a proposed amendment to the state constitution, which means if the Legislature approves the measure, voters would make the final determination on it in a future general election. The governor would not be able to sign or veto the proposed constitutional amendment.

New Mexico currently allows people to open carry their firearms in public without any permit from the state.

Neither Wirth, Martinez or Neville returned phone calls and emails sent by NM Political Report Thursday seeking comment on their upcoming legislation.

Neville previously acknowledged to the Associated Press that his legislation would be a “tough sell” to the Legislature since both chambers will be under Democratic control.

Yet if the past is any indication, closing the “gun show loophole” also won’t easily sail through the Legislature.

In 2013, when Democrats also controlled both the House and Senate, a similar bill passed the House but never made it to the Senate floor in time for a vote, despite passing two Senate committees. At the time, the bill saw heated debate before clearing the lower chamber with eight Republicans joining in support and three Democrats voting against.

Two years later, the bill easily died in the then-Republican controlled House on a party line vote in an early committee.