SANTA FE – In a bit of legislative fact-finding, Rep. Debra Sariñana went to a local retailer last weekend to find out how difficult it might be to purchase a firearm.
The answer, for her at least, was: not very. The Albuquerque Democrat was able to walk out of the store with a new rifle.
Armed with that information, Sariñana and others are pushing legislation seeking to address the fact New Mexico authorities are not currently notified when someone who is not authorized to buy a gun – a group that includes felons and those dishonorably discharged from the military – attempts to do so.
That’s because New Mexico, like most other states, relies on a federal database for background checks to be conducted on potential buyers.
That wouldn’t change under the proposed legislation, but the measure being debated at the Roundhouse would formally request that the FBI alert state law enforcement agencies about firearm transactions that are blocked because of failed background checks.
“At the very least, it lets local law enforcement know that’s a door they should be knocking on,” said Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez, who testified Monday in favor of the legislation.
In a 30-day session in which crime has surfaced as a high-profile issue, Torrez called the nonbinding memorial “common-sense gun legislation.”
He also said it would not affect the ability of anyone who is in compliance with the laws to purchase a firearm.
However, its unclear how big of an impact the proposed legislation would have, as many of the guns used in recent mass shootings around the country were purchased legally.
Several school shootings have happened in New Mexico in recent years – including one in Aztec last month – and Albuquerque’s 75 reported homicides last year represented the highest number for the city in recent history.
In response, many bills have been filed during the ongoing session dealing with criminal penalties. One bill would appropriate $25 million to beef up security at schools statewide.
The nonbinding legislation dealing with failed firearm purchases would be simply a request, since the state cannot compel the federal government to take action.
But backers of the legislation said such an arrangement is already in place in Virginia and possibly other states.
House Joint Memorial 12 passed the House Judiciary Committee without dissent Monday and now advances to the full House. It would also have to be passed by the Senate to be ratified.