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Time to pass a gun access prevention law in NM

In light of recent mass shootings, gun control has become the center of attention in American politics.

While many argue that guns are an American freedom and privilege, in the wrong hands they can be fatal. Ever since Parkland, the movement to change gun laws has caught the attention of students across the nation. New Mexican teens have become aware of our state’s lenient background check laws and gun show loophole that allows abusers to purchase a gun from a private seller, no questions asked.

New Mexico does not require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between private parties; prohibit the transfer or possession of assault weapons, .50 caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines; license or significantly regulate firearms dealers; limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time; license firearm owners; require the registration of firearms; prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or subject to domestic violence protective or restraining orders from purchasing or possessing firearms; impose a waiting period on firearm purchases; or regulate unsafe handguns.

Since Parkland, New Mexican teens have formed organizations, walkouts, protests and panel discussions, and have consistently attended school board meetings and interim legislative committee meetings. During this process, I realized the impact that I am capable of having as a student, and a group of us students decided to write a child access prevention bill with the help of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.

We chose this bill because it poses a huge risk for children in homes with weapons and increases the chances of a child getting hold of a gun. A gun in the home increases the risk of homicide, suicide and accidental death. Guns are more often used to cause harm than in self-protection. A gun in the home makes the likelihood of homicide three times higher, suicide three to five times higher, and accidental death four times higher.

For each time a gun in the home injures or kills in self-defense, there are 11 completed and attempted gun suicides, seven criminal assaults and homicides with a gun, and four unintentional shooting deaths or injuries.

More than half of youth who committed suicide with a gun obtained the gun from their home, usually a parent’s gun. This bill will hold parents legally accountable for the negligent storage of a firearm to certain degrees depending on the actions of the child.

Negligent storage of a firearm consists of the owner storing or leaving the firearm in a location where the owner knows or reasonably should know that a minor is likely to gain access to the gun without the permission of the minor’s parent or legal guardian, unless the owner takes reasonable action to secure the firearm against access by a minor.

This bill, if passed, can reduce school shootings, accidental shootings and suicides significantly.

What can you do? Build awareness in your community, contact your local congressmen and senators. This law will not in any way hinder a law-abiding American’s right to purchase or possess a gun, it just ensures that it is done responsibly, because just like getting a driver’s license and drinking alcohol, there is a certain age and maturity needed in order to safely handle a gun.

There is no excuse for negligent storage and knowing that a firearm could fall into the hands of a child, especially if it results in devastating tragedies.

Please contact your elected officials and ask them to support House Bill 130.

Julia Mazal, from Santa Fe, is a member of the Student Advocacy Union and a junior at United World College in Montezuma, N.M.