Some hope this is the year for assault weapons ban

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s push to eliminate assault weapons in New Mexico may dominate the Legislature’s discussion on guns. But it will have company. Several gun-related bills have been or will be introduced in this year’s 60-day session, promising a battle royale over the role of guns […]

Some hope this is the year for assault weapons ban

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s push to eliminate assault weapons in New Mexico may dominate the Legislature’s discussion on guns.

But it will have company.

Several gun-related bills have been or will be introduced in this year’s 60-day session, promising a battle royale over the role of guns in a state with a long history of gun ownership — and a searing violence problem.

“There’s a lot of appetite to do this,” Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, said in an interview. “Every single day we hear something else in the news about what is going on with gun violence and this is the right way to do this.”

Romero has already filed a bill that would make it a fourth-degree felony to own or use “assault weapons” and magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets. People who own them now would have to destroy or turn in their weapons or take them out of the state. She has also filed one to impose a 14-day waiting period on gun buyers, which would be one of if not the strictest in the country if it were to pass.

“We’ve seen far too many mass shootings and we don’t want one in our community,” Romero said. 

Several other lawmakers have filed or plan to file similar bills, including Sen. Bill Soules, D-Albuquerque, who said in an interview Wednesday he plans to introduce his own version of an assault weapons ban.

Soules said the shooting of over 20 people at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, where parents were asked to provide DNA samples to help identify their dead children, should be enough to convince political leaders to support such a move this year.

“Assault weapons are only weapons of war,” he said.

Acknowledging the rifles are also used for hunting, Soules said beyond that, “They have no other purpose but killing people.”

Republican lawmakers in the state Senate have already voiced opposition to stricter gun control laws, saying such bans won’t make people as safe as would ensuring violent criminals and repeat felons remain behind bars. And although Democrats have large majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, past efforts to pass similar gun control laws have failed — a law limiting magazine capacity similar to Romero’s failed in committee last year.

Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, said in an interview Wednesday he could not yet predict whether an assault weapons ban would have enough support to make it through both chambers and to the governor’s desk for her signature.

“I really don’t know if it has a chance or not,” he said. “We don’t know where everybody stands.”

He expressed doubt about whether New Mexicans who already owned assault rifles would readily surrender their guns. 

“Who’s going to walk in and say, ‘Here’s my AK,'” he said.

While not all Democrats may be on board with these plans, they do have one important ally — the governor, who in her State of the State address Tuesday called for passing an assault weapons ban this year.

“We will not wait for one more tragedy to occur to take action that makes everyone in our state safer in their homes and communities, and the governor is confident in the Legislature’s commitment to doing the right thing by the people of New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett wrote in an email.

Tara Mica, the New Mexico state director for the National Rifle Association, wrote in an email Wednesday a ban “will do nothing to reduce violent crime or enhance public safety, but it will stop law-abiding Americans from exercising their Second Amendment rights. AR-15s are the most popular rifle in America and used by millions for a variety of lawful purposes.”

Zac Fort, legislative affairs officer for the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association, said assault rifles have been used by members of the public for decades with few or no mass shootings until about the 1990s. Ranchers and people in rural communities often use assault rifles to hunt or kill coyotes to protect their livestock, he said. 

“I strongly suspect we would not see very high rates of compliance,” Fort said.

Soules said his proposed legislation would not include enforcing laws against assault rifles that are already legally in the hands of New Mexicans. Romero, though, said the state would have to take a “hard” approach to enforcing the law against current owners of such weapons.

“The question is how willing are we to keep New Mexicans safe and what is at stake to prevent these atrocities from happening?” she said. 

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban passed in 1994 including limits similar to what Romero is proposing, but the law expired in 2004, and subsequent efforts to pass similar federal legislation have stalled in Congress. About a dozen mostly Democratic-run states have assault weapons bans, magazine capacity limits, or both. Illinois became the latest state to pass such a law earlier this month; it is being challenged in court, and could eventually make its way to a U.S. Supreme Court that has been getting more conservative and increasingly gun-friendly over the past decade.

Advocates for an assault weapons ban remain hopeful. Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, wrote in an email her group was grateful for Lujan Grisham’s support.

“These are war tools designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible,” she wrote. “They have tragically become the firearm of choice for mass shooters and are often used by the Mexican Cartel. By banning such weapons, we can help keep both New Mexico and Mexico safer.”

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of guv’s proposals for special session

Both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of guv’s proposals for special session

A representative from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office outlined on Thursday the bills the governor’s office will back during the upcoming special session, but…
Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

By Justin Horwath, New Mexico In Dept Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure…
AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to…
PNM seeks rate increase

PNM seeks rate increase

Customers of New Mexico’s largest electric utility may pay more for energy in the future. The Public Service Company of New Mexico filed an…
DOE announces funding to help bring technologies to market

DOE announces funding to help bring technologies to market

National laboratories across the country, including Sandia National Laboratories, will use millions of dollars in federal funding to spur the deployment of projects related…
LANL plans to release highly radioactive tritium to prevent explosions. Will it just release danger in the air?

LANL plans to release highly radioactive tritium to prevent explosions. Will it just release danger in the air?

By Alicia Inez Guzmán, Searchlight New Mexico Last fall, the international community rose up in defense of the Pacific Ocean. Seafood and salt purveyors,…
Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury secured $8.3 million for childhood development and youth services in the 1st congressional district through federal community project funding. Stansbury,…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

In the month of March 2024 alone, 1,650 clinician-provided abortions took place in New Mexico, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.…
Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

With nearly 53 percent of the precincts reporting as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, most of the legislative candidates endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes New…
New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

Food insecurity is on the rise as state benefits have decreased and the future of federal benefits have an uncertain future.  Sonya Warwick, director…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

In the month of March 2024 alone, 1,650 clinician-provided abortions took place in New Mexico, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.…
Post-primary, Biden leads Trumps in NM

Post-primary, Biden leads Trumps in NM

President Joe Biden leads former president Donald Trump in the race for New Mexico’s five electoral seats, according to a poll commissioned by NM…
Democrats announce spending on CD2 race

Democrats announce spending on CD2 race

The Democratic National Committee announced on Monday that it will spend $70,000 for organizing staff to aid U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, the Democrat trying…
Handful of legislators lose primaries

Handful of legislators lose primaries

Every legislative seat is up for grabs in 2024, which means all incumbents who sought reelection had to face the voters. Most did not…
Post-primary, Biden leads Trumps in NM

Post-primary, Biden leads Trumps in NM

President Joe Biden leads former president Donald Trump in the race for New Mexico’s five electoral seats, according to a poll commissioned by NM…
New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

Food insecurity is on the rise as state benefits have decreased and the future of federal benefits have an uncertain future.  Sonya Warwick, director…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report