Houses passes bipartisan gun bill to punish ‘straw buyers’

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

It is one of the simplest ways for felons to get their hands on guns — having someone they know buy one legally and then sell or give it to them. 

It’s a process known as straw purchasing, and although federal laws prohibit such actions and can put the people who give or sell those guns to felons in jail for up to a decade, there is no state law against such deals in New Mexico. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives attempted to rectify that Friday by voting 62-3 to approve House Bill 306, which, if it becomes law, would make it a fourth-degree felony to knowingly buy a gun for or give one to a felon. 

This means someone convicted of buying a gun for a felon could face up to 18 months in jail, said House Minority Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. Bills to fight crime have been a theme of this year’s session, as have gun control proposals that have divided Democrats and Republicans. HB 306 is one of the rare gun bills that both parties support — Lane and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham put out a joint statement a month ago announcing the bill’s introduction. The three votes against the bill, which now goes to the Senate, came from Republican Reps.

Senate committee advances gun bills on waiting period, advertising

By Nathan Brown, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Another bill to impose a 14-day waiting period on gun purchases made it out of the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee on Sunday. Senate Bill 427 passed on a 6-1 vote. It would do the same thing as House Bill 100, which made it out of two committees with a do-pass recommendation last month but hasn’t yet been brought to the House floor. New Mexico does not currently have a waiting period to buy a firearm. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said 14 days would put New Mexico at the high end of waiting periods.

Senate passes 1st major gun control law of session

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A bill that would hold adults responsible for keeping guns out of the hands of children passed the Senate largely along party lines Friday. Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., D-Jemez Pueblo, joined Republicans in voting against House Bill 9, which creates two new crimes related to negligently making a firearm accessible to a minor. The bill is one of several gun control measures lawmakers are considering in this year’s 60-day legislative session and the first to pass both chambers. HB 9 says a gun owner would be liable if the firearm is kept or stored “in a manner that negligently disregards a minor’s ability to access” the weapon. “These child access prevention laws do work,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat who is among the sponsors of HB 9.

Bill to raise minimum age to buy semi-automatic firearms stalls in committee

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A proposal to raise the age to 21 to buy or possess semi-automatic firearms, including assault weapons, stalled Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee after a series of tie votes. Although Senate Bill 116 isn’t dead, it’s on life support as the clock on the 60-day legislative session winds down. “Right now, the bill remains at the prerogative of the chair,” said committee Chairman Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces. “This bill will be scheduled by me like any other bill.” Cervantes, however, said time is running out with just over two weeks left in the session.

Gun control could force special session, governor hints

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

One of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s key public safety initiatives may be in trouble, and she hinted the battle over such legislation may force a special session. In her State of the State address, the governor called for legislative and public support to ban automatic weapons, saying they are tools of war that are flooding the streets and endangering both the public and police officers. But the tabling of one of two legislative initiatives to ban automatic weapons earlier this week puts the other’s fate into question — a point the governor acknowledged Tuesday during an interview at the Capitol. “I wish I could say with a great deal of confidence that that one is going to move through,” Lujan Grisham said of House Bill 101 in an address to a crowd of mostly young people. “I think that one has the most difficulty (getting through).”

Two sides clash on gun control measures

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

One of the biggest battles of this year’s legislative session — the fight over gun control — took center stage Tuesday at the Capitol. Perhaps predictably, it drew a passionate audience, one likely to grow as a pair of measures continue to move through the Legislature’s committee process. Supporters and opponents of two gun bills — one imposing a 14-day waiting period on a firearms purchase and another banning the possession, use and transfer of automatic weapons — showed up in force to testify before the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee. The back-and-forth debate was familiar to anyone who has watched previous legislative sessions involving gun control laws and efforts to stem gun violence. 

But it was the one-minute comments from both sides that provided a little more insight into the why and why-not of the issue. Regarding the assault weapons and ammunition ban, Kristina Harrigan who said she was in her mid-70s, said she doesn’t want to rely on a small .22-caliber revolver if she hears someone trying to break into her house. 

“I want to have a nice, big rifle that has been expanded for my tiny, little, short dinosaur arms so I can shoot them bad guys,” she said. 

A woman who volunteers for Moms Demand Action pointed out: “You can fire a heck of a lot more bullets per second with a high-capacity rifle than you can with a less capacity gun.”

Bill to prohibit automatic firearm sales passes first committee on party-line vote

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

As an avid motorcyclist, snowboarder and gun enthusiast, retired Illinois state trooper Wilfredo Rivera said he couldn’t find a better place to call home than New Mexico. A year and a half after moving to Rio Rancho, however, Rivera is questioning whether he made the right choice. “All of a sudden, I now find myself deciding if having moved here, coming across the country, is going to turn out to be one of the most costly and biggest mistakes of my life because of some of these bills that are starting to come down the pike,” Rivera told the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee on Monday as it heard the latest in a series of gun-control measures introduced in this year’s 60-day legislative session. Senate Bill 171, which would make it a fourth-degree felony to manufacture, sell, barter, trade, gift, transfer or acquire automatic firearms and other weapons, among other restrictions, cleared the committee on a party-line, 6-3 vote despite constitutional concerns with the legislation. Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said early in the discussion she worried the bill was “extremely broad.”

Bill to keep guns out of hands of minors passes first committee

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A bill that would hold adults criminally responsible if children or teens accessed their firearms cleared its first hurdle Tuesday in the Legislature. Members of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 4-2, along party lines, to approve House Bill 9, a measure similar to one that failed in last year’s legislative session. “We want to make sure our children are safe,” said Rep. Pamelya Herndon, D-Albuquerque, one of the sponsors of HB 9. Nothing in the bill would violate a person’s Second Amendment rights, she added. 

The bill would create two crimes: negligently making a firearm accessible to a minor, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail; and negligently making a firearm accessible to a minor resulting in great bodily harm or death, a fourth-degree felony carrying an 18-month prison term. Herndon said the measure was inspired by the August 2021 shooting death of 13-year-old Bennie Hargrove at an Albuquerque middle school.

U.S. senators reach deal on gun legislation in aftermath of Uvalde shooting

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, including Texan John Cornyn, announced Sunday the framework for a legislative deal to address gun violence in the aftermath of the May 24 mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead at a Uvalde elementary school.

The tentative deal includes a mix of modest gun control proposals and funding for mental health. It would incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws, which are designed to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others; boost funding for mental health services, telehealth resources and more school security; permit juvenile records to be incorporated into background checks for purchasers under the age of 21 and crack down on the straw purchase and trafficking of guns.

Legislator proposes temporary weapon confiscation from those who pose a danger to the public

Earlier this month, Seattle police confiscated a cache of firearms from alleged neo-Nazi leader Kaleb James Cole after a county court named him in an Extreme Risk Protection Order. Police argued Cole posed a threat to the public and were therefore able to take his guns under a relatively new type of law—often referred to as a red flag law. 

Cole served as an example Wednesday afternoon in Santa Fe as the legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee heard a pitch from Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Albuquerque, about enacting a similar law in New Mexico. Although, it’s unlikely Ely and other supporters will be using the term “red flag.”     

“I’ve been trained not to use that term, but it is the same thing,” Ely said, adding that mental health professionals prefer not to use the term. 

Ely said he used Cole as an example because it shows “The value of an extreme risk protection order.”

Ely’s Extreme Risk Protection Order Act would allow police to temporarily confiscate weapons from individuals a court has deemed a potential danger. The Albuquerque lawmaker said the proposal is similar to a bill he cosponsored during the 2019 legislative session. 

“This is a bill that allows law enforcement or household members to petition a court, and with evidence, convince a court that a person is an imminent threat,” he told the committee. 

Ely’s proposal was met with mostly support by committee members, but the sole Republican in attendance had some issues with the standards the courts and police would use to determine if someone is a threat. 

Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said he could understand legal intervention for someone making “a credible threat on the internet,” but was concerned about the burden of proof in Ely’s proposal. 

“I think you need to use the highest standard if you’re going to deny a person a constitutional right,” Rehm said. 

But Ely argued a person’s right to own a gun would not be violated. 

“We’re not taking guns away forever, we’re not locking people up, we’re trying to save lives,” Ely said. 

Under the proposal, if a person is deemed by a court to be a danger and their guns are taken away, they would have the opportunity to argue their case in a court hearing. If no further action is taken after the initial confiscation, Ely said, the guns would be returned.