Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Democratic lawmakers say they will pursue a number of new restrictions on firearms in the next legislative session – including a “red flag” law that would allow family members or police officers to seek a court order to take guns from someone they believe is an immediate threat.
Also on tap are proposals that would require background checks for all firearm sales, order domestic abusers to give up their guns and impose new regulations aimed at keeping guns from children.
The ideas surfaced in an all-day legislative hearing at the University of New Mexico – where a panel of lawmakers heard from police officers, gun owners and high school students.
Supporters and opponents alike turned out.
The Roundhouse is often a skeptical environment for gun legislation. Just this year, the legislative session ended with a filibuster that killed a nonbinding proposal on background checks.
But New Mexico will have a new governor and some new House members by the time it meets next, in January, for a full 60-day session.
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat who has supported expanded background checks, said lawmakers are hearing more often now from young people after many school shootings across the country, including in New Mexico.
“It’s going to be a different legislative landscape,” Wirth said in an interview.
But Republican lawmakers – and some Democrats – expressed reservations about the potential for unintended consequences in the proposals, among other objections. They questioned whether the laws would be practical to enforce.
“This puts a lot of burden on law enforcement,” said Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences.
Here’s a look at the proposals mentioned Tuesday:
• Sen. Richard Martinez, an Española Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will introduce a slimmed-down background check proposal, a successor of sorts to more complex legislation that died in 2017.
The proposal would require background checks on every sale of a firearm.
Background checks are already required in many cases. But Martinez described his bill as a way to fix a “loophole” in which someone can arrange a sale through an online ad and then meet in person to complete the transaction without a background check.
• Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, said she will propose legislation directing judges to order domestic abusers to surrender their firearms while a restraining order is in effect.
• Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, said he is working on a red-flag law that would allow household members or law enforcement to seek a court order to temporarily take the guns of someone they believe is an immediate threat to themselves or others.
Someone who files a false petition would be subject to penalties, Ely said.
• Two New Mexico teenagers, Sophia Lussiez and Julia Mazal, also made a presentation, asking legislators to pass a law that would make gun owners liable if they fail to secure their weapons, allowing access to children. They are working with Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, on a proposal for the next session.
A few people testified in opposition to all or some of the proposals.
Dale Perkins, a firearms instructor, said he already teaches his students to ensure their guns are locked up and even gives away locks.
But he also warned legislators that under some of the proposed bills, innocent people could lose their firearms because of false accusations.
“We’ve got be careful,” Perkins said. “I do not want this to turn into a police state.”