Proposed assault weapon ban killed in late-night committee

SANTA FE — A House committee has tabled an effort to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The five-member House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-2 to table the billĀ  late Thursday after the committee chair, Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, joined the committee’s two Republicans in opposition.

Alcon said he voted against the bill because he believed the federal government would take action on the assault-style weapons soon, and so the proposed New Mexico regulation should be deferred.

“I think that somehow or another, President Obama and the administration are going to do something, and it will cause a lot of these people who are really concerned (about gun control) to have to follow some laws that we don’t have to make for them,” Alcon said. “If it doesn’t happen at the federal level by the time the next session comes around, I’m going to be up front” in support.

House Bill 402, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Easley, D-Santa Fe, would have prohibited purchase or transfer of assault-style weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines after July 1. Current owners would have been allowed to keep the weapons under the proposal.

Easley on Thursday said the bill was a necessary effort to limit access to the kind of weapons that have become prevalent in mass shootings, such as the horrific elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. last December.

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“These weapons are in themselves attractive right now to do killings with,” Easley said. “These are the weapons of choice of disturbed young men going into theaters and schools and churches” to commit mass shootings.

But critics of the bill questioned the degree an assault weapons ban would increase public safety in New Mexico.

“This bill that affects (weapons used in) something around 4 percent of homicides in the U.S., and even less in New Mexico, will not have a substantial affect on gun deaths,” said Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho.

Rep. Thomas Anderson, R-Albuquerque, also voted against the bill.

The vote to table the bill, which came after a nearly two-hour hearing that ended after 9 p.m., effectively kills the proposal for the 2013 legislative session.

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