Gun buyer background check bill clears Legislature
By Robert Nott
The New Mexico House of Representatives voted 42-27 late Monday to approve a bill that would expand requirements for instant federal background checks on buyers of firearms in the state.
Exceptions would include sales of antique firearms or any sale involving immediate family members. It would not affect transactions involving guns that are loaned, gifted or inherited either.
The Senate already had narrowly approved Senate Bill 8, on a vote of 22-20 on Feb. 14, the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting in a high school in Parkland, Fla.
Now that the House has approved the measure, it goes to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who issued a statement thanking those who aided its passage.
“Background checks are a baseline,” she said. “We have a long way to go in curbing gun violence in New Mexico, but I know, and I’m glad lawmakers agree, background checks are a smart, effective, minimally invasive and constitutional safeguard that can help us begin to turn the tide. No responsible gun-owner in New Mexico has anything to fear, despite the misinformation critics have spread about this gun safety proposal and others.”
SB 8 was sponsored by Sens. Richard Martinez, D-Española, and Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. Rep. Debra Sariñana, D-Albuquerque, introduced the bill on the House floor Monday evening, telling the assembly that it does not violate any Second Amendment rights.
“What this bill addresses is closing loopholes,” she said. “This bill will make New Mexico safer.” For example, she said, it could cut down on the number of online sales of guns that occur without a background check being conducted.
Democrats supporting the bill say that if it saves just one life, it will be worth it.
Republicans countered that the legislation is an overreach of power and will do little good, since most licensed dealers already conduct background checks. They argued that criminals looking to buy guns illegally will ignore the law by acquiring guns stolen from homes and cars.
“Most law-abiding people will follow the rules, but I doubt very seriously that the criminals will follow these rules,” said Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena.
Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said a lot of gun-rights advocates around the state are unhappy with the proposal.
“Communities are up in arms — pardon the pun — about us stripping away their gun rights,” he said.
More than 20 counties in the state have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuary counties, refusing to enforce gun-control laws that they say infringe on the U.S. constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, said the proposal will do no such thing. She told of buying a gun in a pawn shop in Carlsbad where “there was a background check. It took a day or two. There was no problem, no infringement, just a day or two of delay because I could pick up the gun. Very simple.”
She said any additional background check oversight provides more safety.
“This is a simple process that will save lives,” she said. “Is it 100 percent? No, it’s not 100 percent. But no law that we legislate in this body is 100 percent.”