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House, Senate to consider background-checks law


Elaina Lussiez, 15, left, and her sister Sophia Lussiez, 17, both students from Desert Academy in Santa Fe, speak in support of a package of bills that would amend New Mexico’s gun laws on Monday in the Roundhouse. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – Proposals to require background checks before almost any gun sale in New Mexico are now headed to the floor in both chambers of the state Legislature.

Each measure has advanced on party-line votes so far, with Democrats in favor.

The latest action came Monday when a key House committee agreed to send the legislation to the full House for consideration. A similar bill is also pending in the Senate, awaiting action on the floor.

They’re part of a broader package of firearms legislation advancing through the Legislature, where Democrats hold majorities in both chambers and, for the first time in eight years, occupy the Governor’s Office.

Other proposals include prohibiting domestic abusers from having guns and allowing family members or police to seek court orders to take guns temporarily from someone they believe is an immediate threat.

Sheriffs from throughout the state, firearms instructors and others turned out in force to oppose the proposals Monday, describing them as impossible to enforce and lacking the legal safeguards necessary before abridging someone’s constitutional right to bear arms.

Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton and other law enforcement officers carry guns while speaking against a package of bills that would require background checks for all gun purchases in the state. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Doctors, students and parents, meanwhile, also lined up to speak – sometimes through tears – in favor of the legislation, calling the proposals a commonsense approach to reducing violence and keeping guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.

“One life lost is one life too many,” said Patsy Romero of the National Alliance on Mental Illness New Mexico.

Republicans assailed the legislation as “feel good” proposals that wouldn’t actually reduce crime.

“If someone is going to break into a home and steal a firearm, what good does this bill do you? … It does nothing,” House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, said.

Restrictions on gun possession are often greeted with skepticism at the Roundhouse. But Democrats expanded their House majority last year, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, supports new gun laws.

Here’s a look at the gun proposals:

• House Bill 8 would expand requirements for background checks to nearly every kind of firearms sale in the state, including between two individuals. Licensed dealers already must conduct background checks. Supporters say individuals who want to buy or sell a gun would go to a retailer or other dealer to have the background check done.

The bill cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Monday and now heads to the House floor.

• House Bill 83 would allow family members or police officers to seek a court order to take guns temporarily from someone they believe is an immediate threat. It’s still under discussion by the Judiciary Committee.

• House Bill 87 would prohibit someone convicted of battery on a household member – among certain other crimes – from having a firearm. It’s on its way to the House floor.

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