SANTA FE – A Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation to prohibit the enforcement of federal gun laws in New Mexico even as the nation debates new gun restrictions after recent mass shootings in other states.
The New Mexico bill – House Bill 114, sponsored by Rep. Nora Espinoza of Roswell – would make it a third-degree felony for any government official or firearm dealer to try to enforce federal gun laws here.
It also would call on the New Mexico attorney general to defend any state resident charged by the federal government with violating federal gun laws.
Ten other representatives in the 70-member House signed on to Espinoza’s bill as co-sponsors.
President Barack Obama and some congressional Democrats are calling for new federal gun restrictions, including legislation that would ban assault-style weapons and limit ammunition clips.
Espinoza did not immediately return calls seeking comment Thursday, but other Republican legislators in Santa Fe said they would back the legislation.
“I would support it,” said Rep. William “Bill” Rehm, R-Albuquerque, who said there is lax enforcement of many federal gun laws already on the books.
Republican legislators in Texas, Wyoming and Tennessee have introduced legislation similar to Espinoza’s New Mexico measure in recent weeks.
The proposed legislation comes amid growing national debate over gun control, after a Dec. 14 shooting in a Connecticut elementary school left 20 students and six teachers dead and after 12 people were killed and 58 wounded in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater on July 20.
Obama this week announced a $500 million package of federal legislative proposals and 23 executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence. The package includes heightened background checks and tougher prosecution of gun crimes.
The National Rifle Association, the biggest lobby for gun owners and dealers, has vowed to fight new restrictions.
Gun control debate has begun to emerge in the New Mexico Legislature, where a 60-day lawmaking session began this week.
Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, D-Albuquerque, introduced legislation to close the “gun show loophole” by requiring mandatory background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows or from a private vendor.
Under Espinoza’s bill, any public officer, firearms dealer or federal agent “who enforces or attempts to enforce any act, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government relating to a personal firearm or firearm accessory, or to ammunition, that is owned or is manufactured commercially or privately in New Mexico, and that remains exclusively within the borders of New Mexico” would be guilty of a third-degree felony.
It says any federal effort after July 2013 “to ban or restrict ownership of a semiautomatic firearm or a magazine of a firearm: or (to) require a firearm, magazine or other firearm accessory to be registered in any manner” would be unenforceable in New Mexico.
Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, the new chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that she had not seen Espinoza’s bill but that it likely would raise significant legal questions.
“I don’t know how a state says you can’t enforce a federal law,” Chasey said. “I think secession would have to precede that, but I guess we’ll see.” — This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal