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NM congressional delegation calls for Senate vote on gun safety bills

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Thoughts and prayers have been welcome in the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, but now is the time for action by Congress, one New Mexico lawmaker said over the weekend.

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small – whose district is across the state line from El Paso – posted the comment on Twitter. She told the Journal on Monday now was the appropriate time for the U.S. Senate to act on gun safety legislation passed by the House earlier this year.

“The universal background checks bill passed the House 150 days ago,” she said. “It has the support of a majority of Americans. It has the support of a majority of gun owners. It’s languished in the Senate long enough.”

She isn’t alone among the New Mexico congressional delegation calling for the Senate to return from recess to vote on the bills passed by the House.

“It’s clear we need courageous leaders in the White House and the Senate, who instead of stoking the flames of hatred, act to end these crises,” U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján said in a statement to the Journal on Monday. “I join the many calls for the Senate to end their summer recess, and pass comprehensive gun safety legislation.”

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland issued a similar call on Twitter.

“Our country needs solutions to end gun violence, which the House passed and the Senate must take up,” Haaland tweeted. “We must stop this hate epidemic.”

The House and Senate are both in recess through the remainder of the month.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is a sponsor of the Background Check Expansion Act (the universal background checks bill), the companion bill to one that passed the House that would expand federal background checks to all gun sales. Luján, Torres Small and Haaland voted in favor of the bill. Udall also supports another House-passed bill to extend the time for background checks, called the “Charleston loophole” bill. Haaland and Luján voted in favor of the bill, but Torres Small voted against it. The bill would extend the time allowed for a background check from three to 10 days.

“In the span of less than 24 hours, two communities have been ravaged by the scourge of gun violence,” Udall said. “It has never been clearer that Congress needs to take urgent action to end this preventable epidemic.”

Torres Small said she voted against the bill because of problems with the language, which she said could have had implications for veterans dealing with mental health issues. She says she supports another House bill that would accomplish the same goals, but has not yet been voted on.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s spokesman Aaron Morales didn’t address the House bills specifically, but said the senator supported universal background checks, bills prohibiting the sale of bump stock devices and a ban on assault weapons.

“Senator Heinrich will consider any bill that actually keeps firearms out of the hands of those who want to do us harm,” Morales said.

Udall also supports taking action to ban assault weapons, as well as limiting magazine capacity by banning magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and banning bump stocks and trigger cranks, which were used in the deadly Las Vegas shooting.

“The American people are sick and tired of the inaction from their elected officials,” Udall said. “President (Donald) Trump, Leader McConnell and Republican leaders must stop standing in the way of the common sense gun violence prevention measures that have wide public support. Congress must enact these reforms – before another community is torn apart by this senseless violence.”

Torres Small said the Senate also needed to renew the Violence Against Women Act, which also addresses gun safety issues.

Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce condemned the acts over the weekend, but said “unenforceable gun bans and background checks for private sales is not the answer.”

“Mental illness is rampant in this country and continues to rise with the lack of accessibly and resources available to those who struggle with the disease,” the former congressman said. “Gun-free zones won’t stop the mentally deranged from obtaining and using guns to carry out cold-blooded murder. Millions of law-abiding citizens responsibly use guns daily to protect themselves. There has to be a solution, but restricting the right to bear arms is not the answer.”

Republican senatorial candidate Mick Rich believed more should be done to keep firearms out of the hands of people dealing with mental illness, along with convicted felons and those with domestic violence issues on the federal and state levels, but he said due process needed to be followed.

“We’ve seen the rhetoric keep escalating probably over the last six years of demonizing the people we don’t agree with,” he said. “This has to come to an end. This starts with all of us.”

His Republican rival Gavin Clarkson said in a statement “that this kind of hatred has no place in civilized society, and this is fundamentally an issue of hearts without God.”

“That said, the right to defend ourselves is a pre-political human right,” he said.

The gun safety bills passed by the House aren’t the only bills the Senate is considering. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act has also been introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. The bill would authorize domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to analyze and monitor domestic terrorist activity and require the Federal Government to take steps to prevent domestic terrorism.

Udall’s office said the senator supports the bill. While it would not be before the House unless it passes the Senate, Luján’s office said the congressman supported its efforts to combat domestic terrorism and white supremacy. It also has the support of Haaland and Torres Small.

Torres Small said she is also a supporter of the Domestic Terrorism Data Act, which would allow local and state law enforcement agencies access to FBI and Department of Homeland Security analysis.

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